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25951  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: November 16, 2007, 03:54:49 PM
Technology Wants To Be Free

 

Kevin Kelly, The Technium (11/14/07):  Last February during a break at the most recent TED conference I was speaking to Chris Anderson, current editor in chief at Wired about his planned next book, called FREE. Nearly 10 years ago I had written a chapter in my thin New Rules for the New Economy book that focused on the role of the free and the economics of plentitude. I called that chapter “Follow the Free.” Almost nothing I’ve written has been as misunderstood as this short chapter. I’ve not had a Q+A session since then without this question coming up: “You say we should embrace the free. How can everything be free?”

The truth is that the concept of the free is easily misunderstood. Thus I applaud Chris’ brilliance in devoting a whole book to unraveling the mess. There’s much to be said about it, and even then we’ll just be at the beginning of understanding what free means. I originally thought I was done with the subject 10 years ago, but the continual questions, as well as the continual evolution of the commons, new social dynamics, new technological disruptions, and further research in the decade since have surfaced some new ideas. In particular I’ve concluded the free is deeply entwined into the very foundation of technology. I was sharing some of those emerging half-baked thoughts with Chris in the lobby of TED. Since that conversation I’ve discovered that the tie between technology and the free goes even further than I thought. My current conclusion can be summarized simply: Technology wants to be free…

 

George Gilder once noted there was a self-reinforcing positive feedback loop in miniaturization of technology. Smaller chips ran cooler, which allowed them to run faster, which allowed them to run cooler, which allowed them to be made smaller. And so on. There is a similar self-reinforcing positive feedback loop in the free-ization of technology. Nearly-free goods permit waste and experimentation, which breed new options for that good, which increase its abundance and lower its price, which generate more new options, which permit further novelty. And so on. These loops work on each other, compounding the effects between techniques and goods, and supercharging the  entire ecology of technologies with an unstoppable momentum towards the free and  towards unleashing new capabilities and possibilities.

The odd thing about free technology is that the “free as in beer” part is actually a distraction. As I have argued elsewhere (see my 2002 New York Times Magazine article on the future of music for example) the great attraction of “free” music is only partially that it does not cost anything. The chief importance of free music (and other free things) is held in the second English meaning of the word: free as in “freedom.” Free music is more than piracy because the freedom in the free digital downloads suddenly allowed music lovers to do all kinds of things with this music that they had longed to do but were unable to do before things were “free.” The “free” in digital music meant the audience could unbundled it from albums, sample it, create their own playlists, embed it, share it with love, bend it, graph it in colors, twist it, mash it, carry it, squeeze it, and enliven it with new ideas. The free-ization made it liquid and ‘free” to interact with other media. In the context of this freedom, the questionable legality of its free-ness was secondary. It didn’t really matter because music had been liberated by the free, almost made into a new media.

Technology wants to be free, as in free beer, because as it become free it also increases freedom. The inherent talents, capabilities and benefits of a technology cannot be released until it is almost free. The drive toward the free unleashes the constraints on each species in the technium, allowing it to interact with as many other species of technology as is possible, engendering new hybrids and deeper ecologies of tools, and permitting human users more choices and freedoms of use. As a technology grows in abundance and cheapness, it is more likely to find its appropriate niche which it can sustain itself and support other technologies in commodity mode. As technology heads toward the free it unleashes the only lasting thing it can: options and possibilities.

Read on:
http://www.kk.org/thetechnium/archives/2007/11/technology_want.php
25952  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 16, 2007, 03:52:22 PM
I notice they didn't endorse him, they applauded him for a particular stand  smiley  I happen to think he is quite right on a number of issues (not 911 or the War with Islamic Fascism) and the second amendment is one of them.
25953  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: November 16, 2007, 12:22:55 PM
Hola Omar:

Que bueno verte aqui de nuevo.  Tenemos nuestro "DB Gathering of the Pack" este domingo-- por lo cual no tendre tiempo para responder hasta la semana que viene.

25954  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Argentina on: November 16, 2007, 12:21:16 PM
Argentina's First Lady
By ALVARO VARGAS LLOSA
November 16, 2007

Just before Cristina Fernandez's victory in Argentina's recent 
presidential elections, author Marcos Aguinis told me in Buenos Aires, 
"Some people think she might be a bit better than her husband because 
she likes haute couture and meeting the rich and famous -- but who 
knows." He was referring to the hope that her well-known penchant for 
all things glamorous will keep the president-elect, who is also a 
former senator, from being an anti-American and globaphobic populist 
like her husband, outgoing president Nestor Kirchner.

Glamour, however, will not prevent the crisis that will hit Argentina 
if she does not reverse her husband's policies. In classic Peronista 
form, the Kirchner couple has engaged in political patronage, 
manipulated the country's institutions, and encouraged radical left-
wing groups to take center stage while presiding over a serendipitous 
economic boom.

What the Kirchners think is their "new model" for Latin America is 
essentially the short-term reward resulting from the massive 
devaluation of the currency a year and a half before Nestor Kirchner 
took office, the skyrocketing prices of the country's commodities, and 
the president's decision to pay back barely one-third of the face 
value of $140 billion worth of government debt paper.

The prices of Argentina's cereals, fuels and minerals have experienced 
a double-digit rise this year, continuing a trend that, together with 
cheap tourism, has helped generate GDP growth rates of between 7% and 
9% in the last four years. As the world's fifth largest exporter of 
foodstuffs, Argentina is having a field day with the voracious demand 
coming from China and other nations. At times, Argentineans seem to be 
reliving their golden 19th century days when their abundant meat and 
cereal exports attracted millions of Europeans to Buenos Aires in 
search of the cornucopia.

But these blessings conceal two fundamental problems. The first is a 
dysfunctional institutional environment. It did not start with the 
current administration but the presidential couple has made it worse. 
The second problem is a byproduct of the first: An economy riddled 
with political bottlenecks that are consuming the capital accumulated 
in the previous decade, and fueling inflation.

The Kirchner presidency has systematically undermined checks and 
balances. Thanks to a law that was passed with the support of his wife 
in the Senate, Mr. Kirchner changed the structure of the Magistrate 
Council and placed the judiciary under Peronista control. He also 
brought into the fold the crushing political machinery of the Buenos 
Aires province, which accounts for almost 40% of the national vote and 
used to be in the hands of former president Eduardo Duhalde, a 
Peronista rival. That was achieved by having Cristina Fernandez run 
for the Senate seat of the Buenos Aires province as opposed to the 
seat representing Santa Cruz.

Mr. Kirchner has also used his majority in Congress -- now expanded by 
his wife's victory in the presidential elections -- to obtain 
"emergency powers" that have given him personal discretion over the 
entire budget. In traditional corporatist fashion, Cristina is now 
speaking of a "social pact" by which the government will negotiate 
laws and policies with groups supposedly representing civil society 
but in reality working to keep the Peronista clientele happy.

Then there is the economy. On the surface, things couldn't be better. 
After a crisis that turned a middle-class country into a Third World 
nation, Argentina has seen about 11 million people pull out of poverty 
-- i.e. go back to their living conditions of the 1990s. By raising 
public spending by 50% annually and wages by 40% in the last four 
years, keeping interest rates low, controlling half the prices that 
make up the consumer price index, and nationalizing or creating state 
enterprises in eight major sectors of the economy, the government has 
achieved a populist artifice. As the results of the presidential 
elections show, Argentineans are not buying this illusion of 
prosperity in the main urban centers (the nation's capital, Cordoba, 
Santa Fe, and others), but the rest of the nation is.

The real story is that investment is very low and inflation very high 
-- and the social demands of a population that has been promised a 
paradise are infinite. Although Mr. Kirchner has tried to conceal 
inflation figures by replacing the head of the national statistics 
institute, no one I talked to in Argentina thinks inflation is below 
20%. The energy crisis, a consequence of Mr. Kirchner's decision to 
continue to freeze prices at one-third of market value and therefore 
discourage investment at a time of rising demand due to the economic 
bounce, is causing havoc. Foreign direct investment has dropped by 
about 30% in the last three years, whereas in Chile, Argentina's next-
door neighbor, it has risen by almost 50%.

This amounts to the squandering of a marvelous opportunity for a 
country whose past prosperity, relatively educated population and 
political gravitas in the region should have granted it a leading role 
in Latin America in this new millennium. The fact that a sophisticated 
woman will be the next president should have been a reason to rejoice 
in a part of the world where politics has been a notoriously 
"machista" enterprise. But it will take a miracle, i.e. an act of 
political treason by Cristina against her husband's legacy, to avoid 
the iceberg for which Argentina's Titanic is headed.

Jorge Luis Borges, Argentina's late poet, used to say, "Peronismo is 
neither good nor bad -- it is incorrigible." Will Cristina's love of 
the good life serve as an antidote to Peron-style populist socialism? 
Although the chances are extremely slim -- she has announced that nine 
of her husband's ministers will stay on to serve in her cabinet -- let 
us pray that Cristina proves Borges wrong.

Mr. Vargas Llosa is the director of the Center on Global Prosperity at 
the Independent Institute and the editor of the upcoming book "Lessons 
 From the Poor," to be published in March by the Independent Institute.
WSJ
25955  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Did Filipino Martial Arts Revolutionize Boxing? on: November 16, 2007, 12:15:23 PM
Woof All:

I'd like to put a question out to the collective braintrust here.

I recently saw a clip of the early days of Mike Tyson wherein Kevin Rooney claimed that he developed the head/slip bag a.k.a. the maize bag http://www.ringside.com/DETAIL.ASPX?ID=24621 and used it to develop Mike Tyson's phenomenol head movement  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cnwLEbFoBFs

I am under the impression the the maize bag has been around much longer than that and possibly has its origins in the Philippines.  If Cus D'Amato/Kevin Rooney developed it, why is it called a maize bag-- a spanish word for corn?  Could it have come from the Philippines (e.g. a bag filled with kernels of corn)

Can anyone confirm, deny, or add to this?
Crafty Dog

Thank you,
Crafty Dog
25956  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt and John Kerry together! on: November 16, 2007, 11:12:11 AM
WSJ

E-Prescriptions
By JOHN KERRY AND NEWT GINGRICH
November 16, 2007; Page A20

In 1799, doctors likely hastened the death of George Washington by draining a third of his blood to treat a bacterial infection. Bleeding was a common practice in those days, it dates back to the Greeks and Romans.

But nowadays, if a doctor used bloodletting he would be barred from practicing medicine. In the age of the Internet, is it any less inexcusable that we have yet to modernize and transform our health-care system?

We have talked long enough about using technology to cut costs and improve the quality of care. Now is the time to act -- and the place to start is preventable medication errors.

According to the Institute of Medicine, Americans average one medication mistake for every day spent in a hospital, accounting for more than 1.5 million injuries each year. Medication errors will kill at least 7,000 Americans this year. Of the more than three billion prescriptions written each year, doctors report nearly one billion require a follow-up between providers and pharmacies for clarification. The cost to our health-care system is in the billions.

One reason for this mess is that 95% of prescriptions are transmitted using 5,000-year-old technology: pen and paper.

That is unacceptable. The deaths and inefficiencies of paper prescriptions can be nearly entirely eliminated if we use the same technology we that use in other aspects of our lives. Electronic prescriptions can replace handwritten, misread and mismatched prescriptions with online, automated and expert technology.

The benefits are clear and compelling. When a doctor "writes" an electronic prescription, a computer can warn of potentially dangerous interactions with other medications or allergies and thereby prevent thousands of unnecessary hospitalizations each year. E-prescribing can also let a physician know whether a drug is covered by a patient's insurance or whether an alternative generic is available at a fraction of the cost. One initiative led by Chrysler, General Motors and Ford to encourage doctors to write e-prescriptions in the Detroit region has generated more than one million prescription alerts that have saved lives and money.

The benefits of e-prescribing are so important that the Institute of Medicine has called for every doctor and nurse to prescribe electronically by the year 2010. Business and labor leaders, health insurers and consumer advocates are unanimous in their support of this common-sense initiative.

Doctors also know that e-prescribing is vital for our health-care system. One recent study of 400 physicians found that 85% of physicians think e-prescribing is a good idea; 81% say it would reduce medication errors; and 65% say it would save time. They like a system that reduces their liability and allows them to focus on providing care, not filling out paperwork.

The problem is that very few doctors use the technology. Of those 400 physicians polled, only 7% actually transmit prescriptions electronically. And 63% say implementing the technology is not a priority. Why? It's not always in their immediate financial interest to do so.

That must change.

The federal government can lead by requiring that doctors who do business with Medicare convert to e-prescribing. This can be done by using market forces and the federal government's purchasing power to align financial incentives.

First, offer bonus payments to Medicare doctors who already prescribe electronically or who adopt the technology. Such payments will help doctors, especially those with small practices without many patients, to pay for startup costs. Private insurers, like WellPoint, are already using this strategy to drive adoption of e-prescribing.

If a majority of doctors don't e-prescribe a few years down the road, the government should require all doctors to adopt e-prescribing or face financial penalties. E-prescribing should become a condition of doing business with Medicare. This is no different than the requirements other suppliers expect to see when they negotiate with customers.

A new study by the Department of Health and Human Services estimates that if 18% of doctors in Medicare adopt e-prescribing, the government will save $4 billion and nearly three million adverse drug events can be prevented over five years.

This is something Republicans and Democrats can agree on. While we continue to debate how to cover the uninsured, improve quality, and lower costs, there is too little being done to modernize health care. E-prescribing for Medicare is just the beginning of the modernization and digitization our ailing health-care system urgently needs. A high-tech, healthier future is within our grasp. We just need creative leadership bold enough to reach for it.

Mr. Kerry, a Democrat, is a senator from Massachusetts. Mr. Gingrich, a Republican, is former speaker of the House and founder of the Center for Health Transformation. Chrysler, GM, Ford and WellPoint are members of the center.

25957  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 16, 2007, 11:03:28 AM
Rudy's Gamble
Giuliani's audacious strategy for the nomination.

BY KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL
Friday, November 16, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Give Rudy Giuliani this: He's living his campaign slogans. The flinty ex-mayor keeps telling America he's fearless, a risk-taker, the guy who can accomplish the impossible (say, cleaning up Sin City). As if to prove it, he's betting the shop on a high-stakes path to the Republican nomination.

Ever since a relatively unknown Georgia peanut farmer used the early primary states to garner the national spotlight, the track to the presidential nomination has run square through Iowa, New Hampshire and (more recently) South Carolina. Go to Des Moines, get famous. Yet there was Giuliani campaign manager Mike DuHaime this week telling reporters that times have changed. His boss is doing it His Way.

It's been clear for some time that Mr. Giuliani was putting his chips on bigger, if later, primary states such as Florida, California and New York--where a less ideological Republican electorate might prove more open to his social record. Still, there was something about Mr. DuHaime confirming this approach--and by extension dissing the usual three-state slingshot--that had a national press corps blinking. It also earned the Giuliani camp a scoffing dismissal from rival Mitt Romney, himself running a textbook, and so far winning, campaign in every early race.





Some scoff is in order. There's a reason presidential hopefuls have for so long genuflected at the Davenport and Concord and Columbia altars: It works. The momentum that accompanies those early wins is often unstoppable, and it makes the Giuliani plan an audacious gamble. Then again, there's a pragmatism to Hizzoner's approach, one that has wisely recognized that times have indeed changed. If there were ever a chance of shattering the old primary mold, this is the year, and Mr. Giuliani is the man, to do it.
Let's be clear, some of this is simple necessity. You might even say Mr. Giuliani didn't have a choice. Iowa's caucus system, dominated by social conservatives, was never going to blow kisses at the pro-choice, antigun New Yorker--Pat Robertson notwithstanding. Especially so if presented with a true-blue social conservative like Mike Huckabee, who in the latest polls is nipping Mr. Romney's shoes. South Carolina's southern conservatives present a similar challenge. Add to this that if Mr. Giuliani had vowed to conquer those citadels, and failed, his campaign would've taken a blow. You can't lose what you never said you'd win.

At the same time, this year's primary fight, and in particular the Republican race, are unique. The Giuliani wisdom, if that's what it proves to be, has been in recognizing those differences early on and toiling ever since to ply them to the mayor's advantage.

Changed circumstance No. 1 is this year's hypercompressed primary season. Whereas winners once got to bask in the glow of their early victories--and rake in the cash--for many weeks before Super Tuesday, this year they'll get to bask a few hours. Mr. Giuliani's Florida, his "firewall" where he has spent his biggest chunk of cash and currently holds a 17-point lead over Mr. Romney, will take place on Jan. 29, just 10 days after South Carolina.

Meanwhile the races on Giga Tuesday (Feb. 5) alone, which include other big Giuliani prospects such as California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois, represent nearly half the delegates necessary to secure the nomination. The Giuliani bet is that the time frame has collapsed enough that he can check any rival "momentum" by cleaning up big in the mega-states.

Changed circumstance No. 2 is the unusual nature of the Republican field itself, in which there is no clear front-runner and voter confusion. Evangelical endorsements are scattered. Terrorism is also making its debut in a Republican primary, and has splintered the usual cohesion of social conservatives and single-issue voters. No one candidate has been able to break away, which means no one is likely to emerge with early landslide victories. Mr. Giuliani is counting that this muddle will deny a Mr. Romney or Fred Thompson the decisive victories they'd need to later challenge in bigger states. It might also allow the mayor some respectable finishes in the early races.

Finally, there's Mr. Giuliani, superstar. The big seduction of the early primaries is that they allow candidates who aren't well known to catapult into the news, thereby becoming household names. Thanks to September 11, Mr. Giuliani is right up there in household names with Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. While a onetime Southern governor like Mr. Huckabee has to get a ticket out of Iowa if he wants a shot, Mr. Giuliani may have more flexibility.

The caveats? The New Yorker's ability to pull this off hinges on his ability to truly clean up in the mega-states. His campaign is already boasting that his leads in some of those places are "momentum-proof." But that's the sort of bold statement that borders on hubris. Even with a sped-up primary schedule, five hard-fought contests (the usual three, plus Nevada and Michigan) will still go down before the nation ever bats an eye at Florida. Allowing a campaign to go 0 for 5 in the run-up to that big day gives a new meaning to the word "risk."





The very idea is apparently giving even the Giuliani campaign the cold sweats. So much so that now that the mayor has built up his position in the bigger states, he's working backward. Yesterday the campaign unveiled its first television ad, and its home will be . . . New Hampshire. It's even hinting it hopes to take the state.
This is itself risky. Of all the early plays, New Hampshire's the best bet for Mr. Giuliani, and his TV spot about his economic and crime success in New York is designed to appeal to state Republicans looking for a fiscally sound tough guy. Think of it, too, as a potential death blow to one or more competitors. Mr. Giuliani sure is. Mr. Romney needs to show he can win in his own backyard (and he currently holds a double-digit lead), while John McCain continues to count on the state he won by 19 points in 2000. The downside is that the Giuliani campaign is now playing the expectations game, and losing will only give a boost to the winner.

Primaries are inherently unpredictable, and Mr. Giuliani's foes have no intention of letting the mayor set the rules. But win or lose, Mr. Giuliani deserves marks for daring to play big.

Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, based in Washington. Her column appears Fridays.
WSJ
25958  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: November 16, 2007, 10:56:44 AM
“The Constitution shall never be construed... to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” —Samuel Adams

PATRIOT PERSPECTIVE
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms”
By Mark Alexander

There is yet another ideological contest brewing in our nation’s capitol, this one between two distinctively different groups in the federal judiciary: constitutional constructionists, who render decisions based on the “original intent” of our nation’s founding document, and judicial despots, who endorse the dangerously errant notion of a “Living Constitution.”

This is no trivial contest, however, and the outcome will have significant consequences across the nation.

The subject of this dispute is Washington, DC’s “Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975,” which prohibits residents from owning handguns, ostensibly to deter so-called “gun violence.”

Of course, suggesting that violence is a “gun problem” ignores the real problem—that of socio-pathology and the culture which nurtures it. (See the Congressional Testimony of Darrell Scott, father of Rachel Scott, one of the children murdered at Columbine High School in 1999.)

In 1960 the frequency of violent crime in the District was 554/100,000 residents, and the murder rate was 10/100,000. In 2006, the frequency of violent crime in the District was 1,512/100,000 residents, and the murder rate was 29/100,000. That is a 200 percent increase, and according to the latest data from Washington Metro Police, violent crime is up 12 percent thus far this year.

Fact is, firearm restrictions on law-abiding citizens in Washington, and other urban centers, have created more victims while protecting offenders. There is nothing new about this correlation. As Thomas Jefferson noted in his Commonplace Book (quoting Cesare Beccaria), “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

Simply put, violent predators prefer victims who have no means of self defense.

Most pro and con arguments about firearms are constructed around the crime debate, including excellent research by John Lott, whose book More Guns, Less Crime, clearly establishes that restrictive gun policies lead to higher crime rates.

The arguments from both sides in the current case in Washington are also constructed around the crime issue. However, the Second Amendment debate is not about crime, but about the rule of law—constitutional law. Fortunately, the appellate court for DC is making this distinction.

In March of this year, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down that federal jurisdiction’s restrictions on gun ownership, finding that the District is violating the Second Amendment’s prohibition on government infringement of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court, and should the High Court accept the case, its ruling would be the first substantial decision on the scope of the Second Amendment since 1939.

At issue: Does the Second Amendment prohibit the government from infringing on the individual rights of citizens to keep and bear arms, or does it restrict the central government from infringing on the rights of the several states to maintain well-armed militias?

The intent of the Second Amendment, however, was abundantly clear to our Founders.

Indeed, in the most authoritative explication of our Constitution, The Federalist Papers, its principal author, James Madison, wrote in No. 46, “The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation... forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any...”

Alexander Hamilton was equally unambiguous on the importance of arms to a republic, writing in Federalist No. 28, “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense...”

Justice Joseph Story, appointed to the Supreme Court by James Madison, wrote, “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”

In other words, the right of the people to bear arms is the most essential of the rights enumerated in our Constitution, because it ensures the preservation of all other rights.

Accordingly, the appellate court, in a 2-1 decision, ruled, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government... The individual right facilitated militia service by ensuring that citizens would not be barred from keeping the arms they would need when called forth for militia duty.”

Additionally, the majority opinion notes, “The activities [the amendment] protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual’s enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia.”

The dissenting judge’s conclusion did not dispute the plain language of the Second Amendment’s prohibition on government, but he insists that the District is not a state, and is, thus, not subject to the prohibition.

This is ridiculous, of course, since such a conclusion would imply, by extension, that District residents are not subject to any protection under the Constitution.

The real contest here is one between activist judges, those who amend the Constitution by judicial diktat rather than its clearly prescribed method stipulated in Article V, and constructionist judges, those who properly render legal interpretation based on the Constitution’s “original intent.”

As Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 81, “[T]here is not a syllable in the [Constitution] under consideration which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution...” In other words, nothing in the Constitution gives judges the right to declare the Constitution means anything beyond the scope of its plain language.

However, activist judges, including those among generations of High Court justices, have historically construed the Second Amendment through a pinhole, while viewing the First Amendment through a wide-angle lens.

For example, though the First Amendment plainly says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” judicial activists interpret this plain language to mean a public school coach can’t offer a simple prayer before a game.

Equally absurd, they argue that the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause means burning the American flag, exploiting women for “adult entertainment,” or using taxpayer dollars to fund works of “art” such as a crucifix immersed in a glass of human waste.

If these same judicial despots misconstrued the Second Amendment as broadly as they do the first, Americans would have nukes to defend themselves from noisy neighbors.

The appeals case regarding the constitutionality of DC’s Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 is not about crime prevention, or whether the District is subject to prohibitions in the Bill of Rights. It is about the essence of our Constitution’s most important assurance that all Americans have the right to defend themselves against both predatory criminals and tyrannical governments. It is about the need for the High Court to reaffirm this right and stop the incremental encroachment of said right by infringements like that in the District, or more egregious encroachments like those found within the Feinstein-Schumer gun-control act.

Of self-government’s “important principles,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “It is [the peoples’] right and duty to be at all times armed.” Indeed, the right of the people to keep and bear arms should not be infringed.
25959  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: November 16, 2007, 10:41:45 AM
A church re-opens in Baghdad

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/come-home.htm
25960  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: November 16, 2007, 10:22:15 AM
THE FOUNDATION
“The Constitution shall never be construed... to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” —Samuel Adams

PATRIOT PERSPECTIVE
“The right of the people to keep and bear arms”
By Mark Alexander

There is yet another ideological contest brewing in our nation’s capitol, this one between two distinctively different groups in the federal judiciary: constitutional constructionists, who render decisions based on the “original intent” of our nation’s founding document, and judicial despots, who endorse the dangerously errant notion of a “Living Constitution.”

This is no trivial contest, however, and the outcome will have significant consequences across the nation.

The subject of this dispute is Washington, DC’s “Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975,” which prohibits residents from owning handguns, ostensibly to deter so-called “gun violence.”

Of course, suggesting that violence is a “gun problem” ignores the real problem—that of socio-pathology and the culture which nurtures it. (See the Congressional Testimony of Darrell Scott, father of Rachel Scott, one of the children murdered at Columbine High School in 1999.)

In 1960 the frequency of violent crime in the District was 554/100,000 residents, and the murder rate was 10/100,000. In 2006, the frequency of violent crime in the District was 1,512/100,000 residents, and the murder rate was 29/100,000. That is a 200 percent increase, and according to the latest data from Washington Metro Police, violent crime is up 12 percent thus far this year.

Fact is, firearm restrictions on law-abiding citizens in Washington, and other urban centers, have created more victims while protecting offenders. There is nothing new about this correlation. As Thomas Jefferson noted in his Commonplace Book (quoting Cesare Beccaria), “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms... disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes... Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”

Simply put, violent predators prefer victims who have no means of self defense.

Most pro and con arguments about firearms are constructed around the crime debate, including excellent research by John Lott, whose book More Guns, Less Crime, clearly establishes that restrictive gun policies lead to higher crime rates.

The arguments from both sides in the current case in Washington are also constructed around the crime issue. However, the Second Amendment debate is not about crime, but about the rule of law—constitutional law. Fortunately, the appellate court for DC is making this distinction.

In March of this year, the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down that federal jurisdiction’s restrictions on gun ownership, finding that the District is violating the Second Amendment’s prohibition on government infringement of “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The case has been appealed to the Supreme Court, and should the High Court accept the case, its ruling would be the first substantial decision on the scope of the Second Amendment since 1939.

At issue: Does the Second Amendment prohibit the government from infringing on the individual rights of citizens to keep and bear arms, or does it restrict the central government from infringing on the rights of the several states to maintain well-armed militias?

The intent of the Second Amendment, however, was abundantly clear to our Founders.

Indeed, in the most authoritative explication of our Constitution, The Federalist Papers, its principal author, James Madison, wrote in No. 46, “The advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation... forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any...”

Alexander Hamilton was equally unambiguous on the importance of arms to a republic, writing in Federalist No. 28, “If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense...”

Justice Joseph Story, appointed to the Supreme Court by James Madison, wrote, “The right of the citizens to keep and bear arms has justly been considered as the palladium of the liberties of a republic; since it offers a strong moral check against the usurpation and arbitrary power of rulers; and will generally, even if these are successful in the first instance, enable the people to resist and triumph over them.”

In other words, the right of the people to bear arms is the most essential of the rights enumerated in our Constitution, because it ensures the preservation of all other rights.

Accordingly, the appellate court, in a 2-1 decision, ruled, “The Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. That right existed prior to the formation of the new government under the Constitution and was premised on the private use of arms for activities such as hunting and self-defense, the latter being understood as resistance to either private lawlessness or the depredations of a tyrannical government... The individual right facilitated militia service by ensuring that citizens would not be barred from keeping the arms they would need when called forth for militia duty.”

Additionally, the majority opinion notes, “The activities [the amendment] protects are not limited to militia service, nor is an individual’s enjoyment of the right contingent upon his or her continued or intermittent enrollment in the militia.”

The dissenting judge’s conclusion did not dispute the plain language of the Second Amendment’s prohibition on government, but he insists that the District is not a state, and is, thus, not subject to the prohibition.

This is ridiculous, of course, since such a conclusion would imply, by extension, that District residents are not subject to any protection under the Constitution.

The real contest here is one between activist judges, those who amend the Constitution by judicial diktat rather than its clearly prescribed method stipulated in Article V, and constructionist judges, those who properly render legal interpretation based on the Constitution’s “original intent.”

As Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 81, “[T]here is not a syllable in the [Constitution] under consideration which directly empowers the national courts to construe the laws according to the spirit of the Constitution...” In other words, nothing in the Constitution gives judges the right to declare the Constitution means anything beyond the scope of its plain language.

However, activist judges, including those among generations of High Court justices, have historically construed the Second Amendment through a pinhole, while viewing the First Amendment through a wide-angle lens.

For example, though the First Amendment plainly says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” judicial activists interpret this plain language to mean a public school coach can’t offer a simple prayer before a game.

Equally absurd, they argue that the First Amendment’s “freedom of speech” clause means burning the American flag, exploiting women for “adult entertainment,” or using taxpayer dollars to fund works of “art” such as a crucifix immersed in a glass of human waste.

If these same judicial despots misconstrued the Second Amendment as broadly as they do the first, Americans would have nukes to defend themselves from noisy neighbors.

The appeals case regarding the constitutionality of DC’s Firearms Control Regulations Act of 1975 is not about crime prevention, or whether the District is subject to prohibitions in the Bill of Rights. It is about the essence of our Constitution’s most important assurance that all Americans have the right to defend themselves against both predatory criminals and tyrannical governments. It is about the need for the High Court to reaffirm this right and stop the incremental encroachment of said right by infringements like that in the District, or more egregious encroachments like those found within the Feinstein-Schumer gun-control act.

Of self-government’s “important principles,” Thomas Jefferson wrote, “It is [the peoples’] right and duty to be at all times armed.” Indeed, the right of the people to keep and bear arms should not be infringed.

25961  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Men & Women on: November 16, 2007, 09:04:41 AM
West: The Fatherless Civilization
By Fjordman
The decade from the first half of the 1960s to the first half of the 1970s was clearly a major watershed in Western history, with the start of non-Western mass immigration in the USA, the birth of Eurabia in Western Europe and the rise of Multiculturalism and radical Feminism. American columnist Diana West recently released her book The Death of the Grown-up, where she traces the decline of Western civilization to the permanent youth rebellions of the past two generations. The paradox is that the people who viciously attacked their own civilization had enjoyed uninterrupted economic growth for decades, yet embraced Marxist-inspired ideologies and decided to undermine the very society which had allowed them to live privileged lives. Maybe this isn't as strange as it seems. Karl Marx himself was aided by the wealth of Friedrich Engels, the son of a successful industrialist.

This was also the age of decolonization in Western Europe and desegregation in the USA, which created an atmosphere where Western civilization was seen as evil. Whatever the cause, we have since been stuck in a pattern of eternal opposition to our own civilization. Some of these problems may well have older roots, but they became institutionalized to an unprecedented degree during the 1960s.

According to Diana West, the organizing thesis of her book "is that the unprecedented transfer of cultural authority from adults to adolescents over the past half century or so has dire implications for the survival of the Western world." Having redirected our natural development away from adulthood and maturity in order to strike the pop-influenced pose of eternally cool youth – ever-open, non-judgmental, self-absorbed, searching for (or just plain lacking) identity – we have fostered a society marked by these same traits. In short: Westerners live in a state of perpetual adolescence, but also with a corresponding perpetual identity crisis. West thinks maturity went out of style in the rebellious 1960s, "the biggest temper tantrum in the history of the world," which flouted authority figures of any kind.

She also believes that although the most radical break with the past took place during the 60s and 70s, the roots of Western youth culture are to be found in the 1950s with the birth of rock and roll music, Elvis Presley and actors such as James Dean. Pop group The Beatles embodied this in the early 60s, but changed radically in favor of drugs and the rejection of established wisdom as they approached 1970, a shift which was reflected in the entire culture.

Personally, one of my favorite movies from the 1980s was Back to the Future. In one of the scenes, actor Michael J. Fox travels in time from 1985 to 1955. Before he leaves 1985, he hears the slogan "Re-elect Mayor....Progress is his middle name." The same slogan is repeated in 1955, only with a different name. Politics is politics in any age. Writers Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale have stated that they chose the year 1955 as the setting of the movie because this was the age of the birth of teen culture: This was when the teenager started to rule, and he has ruled ever since.

As West says, many things changed in the economic boom in the decades following the Second World War: "When you talk about the postwar period, the vast new affluence is a big factor in reorienting the culture to adolescent desire. You see a shift in cultural authority going to the young. Instead of kids who might take a job to be able to help with household expenses, all of a sudden that pocket money was going into the manufacture of a massive new culture. That conferred such importance to a period of adolescence that had never been there before." After generations of this celebration of youth, the adults have no confidence left: "Kids are planning expensive trips, going out unchaperoned, they are drinking, debauching, absolutely running amok, yet the parents say, 'I can't do anything about it.' Parents have abdicated responsibilities to give in to adolescent desire."



She believes that "Where womanhood stands today is deeply affected by the death of grown-up. I would say the sexualized female is part of the phenomenon I'm talking about, so I don't think they're immune to the death of the grown-up. Women are still emulating young fashion. Where sex is more available, there are no longer the same incentives building toward married life, which once was a big motivation toward the maturing process."

Is she right? Have we become a civilization of Peter Pans refusing to grow up? Have we been cut off from the past by disparaging everything old as outmoded? I know blogger Conservative Swede, who likes Friedrich Nietzsche, thinks we suffer from "slave morality," but I sometimes wonder whether we suffer from child morality rather than slave morality. However, there are other forces at work here as well.

The welfare state encourages an infantilization of society where people return to childhood by being provided for by others. This creates not just a culture obsessed with youth but with adolescent irresponsibility. Many people live in a constant state of rebellion against not just their parents but their nation, their culture and their civilization.

Writer Theodore Dalrymple thinks one reason for the epidemic of self-destructiveness in Western societies is the avoidance of boredom: "For people who have no transcendent purpose to their lives and cannot invent one through contributing to a cultural tradition (for example), in other words who have no religious belief and no intellectual interests to stimulate them, self-destruction and the creation of crises in their life is one way of warding off meaninglessness."

According to him, what we are seeing now is "a society in which people demand to behave more or less as they wish, that is to say whimsically, in accordance with their kaleidoscopically changing desires, at the same time as being protected from the natural consequences of their own behaviour by agencies of the state. The result is a combination of Sodom and Gomorrah and a vast and impersonal bureaucracy of welfare."

The welfare state deprives you of the possibility of deriving self-respect from your work. This can hurt a person's self-respect, but more so for men than for women because masculine identity is closely tied to providing for others. Stripped of this, male self-respect declines and society with it. Dalrymple also worries about the end of fatherhood, and believes that the worst child abusers are governments promoting the very circumstances in which child abuse and neglect are most likely to take place: "He who promotes single parenthood is indifferent to the fate of children." Fatherhood scarcely exists, except in the merest biological sense:

"I worked in a hospital in which had it not been for the children of Indian immigrants, the illegitimacy rate of children born there would have approached one hundred per cent. It became an almost indelicate question to ask of a young person who his or her father was; to me, it was still an astounding thing to be asked, 'Do you mean my father now, at the moment?' as if it could change at any time and had in fact changed several times before."

This is because "women are to have children merely because they want them, as is their government-given right, irrespective of their ability to bring them up, or who has to pay for them, or the consequences to the children themselves. Men are to be permanently infantilised, their income being in essence pocket money for them to spend on their enjoyments, having no serious responsibilities at all (beyond paying tax). Henceforth, the state will be father to the child, and the father will be child of the state."

As Swedish writer Per Bylund explains: "Most of us were not raised by our parents at all. We were raised by the authorities in state daycare centers from the time of infancy; then pushed on to public schools, public high schools, and public universities; and later to employment in the public sector and more education via the powerful labor unions and their educational associations. The state is ever-present and is to many the only means of survival – and its welfare benefits the only possible way to gain independence."

Though Sweden is arguably an extreme case, author Melanie Phillips notices the same trends in Britain, too: "Our culture is now deep into uncharted territory. Generations of family disintegration in turn are unravelling the fundamentals of civilised human behaviour. Committed fathers are crucial to their children's emotional development. As a result of the incalculable irresponsibility of our elites, however, fathers have been seen for the past three decades as expendable and disposable. Lone parenthood stopped being a source of shame and turned instead into a woman's inalienable right. The state has provided more and more inducements to women – through child benefit, council flats and other welfare provision – to have children without committed fathers. This has produced generations of women-only households, where emotionally needy girls so often become hopelessly inadequate mothers who abuse and neglect their own children – who, in turn, perpetuate the destructive pattern. This is culturally nothing less than suicidal."

I sometimes wonder whether the modern West, and Western Europe in particular, should be dubbed the Fatherless Civilization. Fathers have been turned into a caricature and there is a striking demonization of traditional male values. Any person attempting to enforce rules and authority, a traditional male preserve, is seen as a Fascist and ridiculed, starting with God the Father. We end up with a society of vague fathers who can be replaced at the whim of the mothers at any given moment. Even the mothers have largely abdicated, leaving the upbringing of children to schools, kindergartens and television. In fashion and lifestyle, mothers imitate their daughters, not vice versa.



The elaborate welfare state model in Western Europe is frequently labelled "the nanny state," but perhaps it could also be named "the husband state." Why? Well, in a traditional society, the role of men was to physically protect and financially provide for their women. In our modern society, part of this task has been "outsourced" to the state, which helps explain why women in general give disproportionate support to high taxation and pro-welfare state parties. According to anthropologist Lionel Tiger, the ancient unit of a mother, a child and a father has morphed from monogamy into "bureaugamy," a mother, a child and a bureaucrat. The state has become a substitute husband. In fact, it doesn't replace just the husband, it replaces the entire nuclear and extended family, raises the children and cares for the elderly.

Øystein Djupedal, Minister of Education and Research from the Socialist Left Party and responsible for Norwegian education from kindergartens via high schools to PhD level, has stated: "I think that it's simply a mistaken view of child-rearing to believe that parents are the best to raise children. 'Children need a village,' said Hillary Clinton. But we don't have that. The village of our time is the kindergarten." He later retracted this statement, saying that parents have the main responsibility for raising children, but that "kindergartens are a fantastic device for children, and it is good for children to spend time in kindergarten before [they] start school."

The problem is that some of his colleagues use the kindergarten as the blueprint for society as a whole, even for adults. In the fall of 2007, Norway's center-left government issued a warning to 140 companies that still hadn't fulfilled the state-mandated quota of 40 percent women on their boards of directors. Equality minister Karita Bekkemellem stated that companies failing to meet the quota will face involuntary dissolution, despite the fact that many are within traditionally male-oriented branches like the offshore oil industry, shipping and finance. She called the law "historic and radical" and said it will be enforced.

Bekkemellem is thus punishing the naughty children who refuse to do as Mother State tells them to, even if these children happen to be private corporations. The state replaces the father in the sense that it provides for you financially, but it acts more like a mother in removing risks and turning society into a cozy, regulated kindergarten with ice cream and speech codes.

Blog reader Tim W. thinks women tend to be more selfish than men vis-a-vis the opposite sex: "Men show concern for women and children while women.... well, they show concern for themselves and children. I'm not saying that individual women don't show concern for husbands or brothers, but as a group (or voting bloc) they have no particular interest in men's well-being. Women's problems are always a major concern but men's problems aren't. Every political candidate is expected to address women's concerns, but a candidate even acknowledging that men might have concerns worth addressing would be ostracized." What if men lived an average of five years and eight months longer than women? Well, if that were the case, we'd never hear the end of it: "Feminists and women candidates would walk around wearing buttons with 'five years, eight months' written on them to constantly remind themselves and the world about this horrendous inequity. That this would happen, and surely it would, says something about the differing natures of male and female voters."

Bernard Chapin interviewed Dr. John Lott at Frontpage Magazine. According to Lott, "I think that women are generally more risk averse then men are and they see government as one way of providing insurance against life's vagaries. I also think that divorced women with kids particularly turn towards government for protection. Simply giving women the right to vote explained at least a third of the growth in government for about 45 years."

He thinks this "explains a lot of the government's growth in the US but also the rest of the world over the last century. When states gave women the right to vote, government spending and tax revenue, even after adjusting for inflation and population, went from not growing at all to more than doubling in ten years. As women gradually made up a greater and greater share of the electorate, the size of government kept on increasing. This continued for 45 years as a lot of older women who hadn't been used to voting when suffrage first passed were gradually replaced by younger women. After you get to the 1960s, the continued growth in government is driven by higher divorce rates. Divorce causes women with children to turn much more to government programs." The liberalization of abortion also led to more single parent families.

Diana West thinks what we saw in the counterculture of the 1960s was a leveling of all sorts of hierarchies, both of learning and of authority. From that emerged the leveling of culture and by extension Multiculturalism. She also links this trend to the nanny state:

"In considering the strong links between an increasingly paternalistic nanny state and the death of the grown-up, I found that Tocqueville (of course) had long ago made the connections. He tried to imagine under what conditions despotism could come to the United States. He came up with a vision of the nation characterized, on the one hand, by an 'innumerable multitude of men, alike and equal, constantly circling around in pursuit of the petty and banal pleasures with which they glut their souls,' and, on the other, by the 'immense protective power' of the state. 'Banal pleasures' and 'immense state power' might have sounded downright science-fictional in the middle of the 19th century; by the start of the 21st century, it begins to sound all too familiar. Indeed, speaking of the all-powerful state, he wrote: 'It would resemble parental authority if, fatherlike, it tried to prepare its charges for a man's life, but, on the contrary, it only tries to keep them in perpetual childhood.' Perhaps the extent to which we, liberals and conservatives alike, have acquiesced to our state's parental authority shows how far along we, as a culture, have reached Tocqueville's state of 'perpetual childhood.'"

This problem is even worse in Western Europe, a region with more elaborate welfare states than the USA and which has lived under the American military umbrella for generations, thus further enhancing the tendency for adolescent behavior.

The question, which was indirectly raised by Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s in his book Democracy in America, is this: If democracy of universal suffrage means that everybody's opinion is as good as everybody else's, will this sooner or later turn into a society where everybody's choices are also as good as everybody else's, which leads to cultural relativism? Tocqueville wrote at a time when only men had the vote. Will universal suffrage also lead to a situation where women vote themselves into possession of men's finances while reducing their authority and creating powerful state regulation of everything?

I don't know the answer to that. What I do know is that the current situation isn't sustainable. The absence of fatherhood has created a society full of social pathologies, and the lack of male self-confidence has made us easy prey for our enemies. If the West is to survive, we need to reassert a healthy dose of male authority. In order to do so we need to roll back the welfare state. Perhaps we need to roll back some of the excesses of Western Feminism, too.

Fjordman is a noted Norwegian blogger who has written for many conservative web sites. He used to have his own Fjordman Blog in the past, but it is no longer active.

25962  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on fighting government expansion on: November 16, 2007, 08:34:49 AM
"The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond
income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications
soliciting the employment of the pruning knife."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Spencer Roane, 9 March 1821)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition,
Lipscomb and Bergh, eds., vol. 15 (325)
25963  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: November 16, 2007, 08:32:18 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iranian Nuclear Questions

A lot of discussion is circulating about just how cooperative the Iranians are when it gets down to coming clean on their nuclear program. Earlier this week, it is significant to note that Iran decided to hand over a set of blueprints to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that detail how to shape weapons-grade uranium into a form usable in a nuclear warhead. After all, there has been a lot of talk about the Americans and the Iranians getting together for another round of negotiations over Iraq. And these Iraq negotiations are intrinsically linked to the Iranian nuclear program. If Tehran expects to negotiate effectively over Iraq, it makes sense to throw out such confidence-building measures in order to set the mood.

But this is still not enough for the IAEA, much less the European Union and United States. In fact, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei -- under heavy pressure from the Europeans and Americans -- admitted on Thursday that Iran has only offered selective cooperation in providing access to its program. He said the agency's knowledge about Iran's current nuclear program is diminishing since it has not received the type of information that Iran had been providing since early 2006. Not coincidentally, the first part of 2006 was an extremely heated period of assassinations, defections and abductions in the ongoing covert intelligence war involving the United States, Israel and Iran.

So, was this latest concession from Iran to the IAEA simply a failed attempt to sweeten ElBaradei into putting out a report lauding Tehran for its cooperation (and thereby give Iran more bandwidth to skirt sanctions)? Or is Iran seriously trying to pursue talks with the United States over Iraq by putting the nuclear issue on the negotiating table? The two possibilities are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but it is important to see through the blustery rhetoric on all sides to make sense of what these nuclear negotiations are all about.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, according to a Reuter's source close to him, has instructed his Cabinet to draft proposals on how Israel will cope with a nuclear Iran. The prime minister's office denies the report. But it makes perfect sense for Israel to be drafting such contingency plans. Nonetheless, Israel does not want to give the impression that it sees a nuclear Iran as inevitable.

Quite to the contrary, the United States and Israel could even be ramping up efforts to sabotage the Iranian nuclear experiment. A report cropped up earlier this week on a "series of explosions" that took place in southern Iran at the Parchin military complex, about 19 miles southeast of Tehran, where Iran is suspected of housing a nuclear weapons research and development facility. Though Iran's semi-official Fars news agency is reporting in an almost defensive tone that the site where the explosion took place is a "nonmilitary area at a tire and wastes storage place," Iran's principal exiled opposition organization, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, is going to great lengths to suggest the incident was a covert attack that the Iranian regime and its media outlets are covering up. Though allegations from this organization can often be dubious, it would not be beyond the pale of certain intelligence organizations to shake up the Iranians in this fashion. The Israeli Mossad has been conducting a covert campaign to take out key Iranian nuclear scientists for some time, and these operations, according to our sources, are continuing.

That said, we do not yet have any evidence to back up this claim. And if the Iranians were actually being sincere about their cooperation on the nuclear issue, the United States and its allies would likely be taking some care to not rock the boat too much. In any case, the Fars report should not be taken for granted; this is one "accident" worth investigating.
25964  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan on: November 16, 2007, 08:29:49 AM
On Setting an Example
Being a "beacon to the world" is more challenging than it sounds.

Friday, November 16, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

I thought I'd say a word for the Beaconists.

This election year we will, sooner or later, be asked to think about, and concentrate on, what American foreign policy should be in the future. We will have to consider, or reconsider, what challenges we face, what the world really is now after the Cold War and after 9/11, what is needed from America, and for her.

In some rough and perhaps tentative way we will have to decide what philosophical understanding of our national purpose rightly guides us.

Part of the debate will be shaped by the tugging back and forth of two schools of thought. There are those whose impulses are essentially interventionist--we live in the world and must take part in the world, sometimes, perhaps even often, militarily. We are the great activist nation, the spreader of political liberty, the superpower whose meaning is made clear in action.

The other school holds profound reservations about all this. It is more modest in its ambitions, more cool-eyed about human nature. It feels more bound by the old advice attributed to one of the Founding Generation, that we be the friend of liberty everywhere but the guarantor only of our own.

Much has changed in the more than two centuries since he said that: many wars fought, treaties made, alliances forged. And yet as simple human wisdom, it packs a wallop still.

Those who feel tugged toward the old Founding wisdom often use the word "beacon." It is our place in the scheme of things, it is our fate and duty, to be a beacon of liberty. To stand tall and hold high the light. To be an example, to be an inspiration, to encourage. We do not invent constitutions and impose them on other countries; instead they, in their restlessness, in their human desire to achieve a greater portion of freedom, will rise up in time and create their own constitution. And because they created it, and because it reflects their conception of justice, they will hold it more dearly.

So we are best, in the world as it is now, the beacon, not the bringer, of freedom. We are its friend, not its enforcer.

As a foreign policy this sounds, or has been made to sound, unduly passive. We'll sit around being a good example and the rest of them can take a hike. But if you want to be a beacon, it's actually a hard job. It involves activism. You can't be a beacon unless as a nation you're in pretty good shape. You can't be a beacon unless you send forth real light. You can't be a beacon unless you really do inspire.

Do we always? No. We're not always a good example for the world. And so, for the coming holiday, a few baseline areas, some only stylistic, in which we could make our light glow brighter in--and for--the world.





It would be good to have the most visible symbols of our country, the president and the Congress, be clean. So often they seem not to be. They are scandal-ridden, or an embarrassment, or seem in the eyes of the world to be bought and paid for by special interests or unions or industries or professions. Whether you are liberal or conservative, you agree it is important that the world be impressed by America's leaders, by their high-mindedness and integrity. Leaders who are not dragged through the mud because they actually don't bring much mud with them. There is room for improvement here.
To be a beacon is to speak softly to the world, with dignity, with elegance if you can manage it, or simple good-natured courtesy if you can't. A superpower should never shout, never bray "We're No. 1!" If you're No. 1, you don't have to.

To be a beacon is to have a democracy in which issues of actual import are regularly debated. Instead our political coverage consists of daily disquisitions on "targeted ads," "narratives," "positioning" and "talking points." We really do make politicians crazy. If a politician cares only about his ads and his rehearsed answers, the pundits call him inauthentic. But if a politician ignores these things to speak of great issues we say he lacks "fire in the belly" and is incompetent. So many criticisms of politicians boil down to: He's not manipulating us well enough! We need more actual adults who are actually serious about the business of the nation.

To be a beacon is to keep the economic dream alive. We're still good at this. The downside is the rise in piggishness that tends to accompany prosperity. It is not good to embarrass your nation with your greed. It disheartens those who are doing their best but are limited, or unlucky, or just haven't made it work yet. It is good when you have it not to keep it all but to help the limited, and unlucky, and those who just haven't made it work yet. Keep it going, Porky.

To be a beacon is to continue another thing we're good at, making the kind of citizens who go into the world and help it: the doctors, the scientists, the nurses. They choose to go and help. The world notices, and says, "These are some kind of people, these Americans."

To be a beacon is to support the creation of a culture that is not dark, or sulfurous, or obviously unwell. We introduce our culture to our new immigrants each day through television. Just for a moment, imagine you are a young person from Africa or South America, a new American. You come here and put on the TV, for even the most innocent know that TV is America and America is TV, and you want to learn quickly. What you see is an obvious and embarrassing obsession with sex, with violence, with sexual dysfunction. You see the routine debasement of women parading as the liberation of women.





Conservatives have wrung their hands over this for a generation. But really, if you are a new immigrant to our country, full of hope, animated in part by some sense of mystery about this country that has lived in your imagination for 20 years, you have got to think: This is it? This ad for erectile dysfunction? Oh, I have joined something that is not healthy.
Sad to think this. They want to have joined a healthy and vibrant and well-balanced nation, not a sick circus.

I haven't even touched upon poverty, the material kind and the spiritual kind. I haven't touched on a lot. But if we were to try harder to be better, if we were to try harder to be and seem as great as we are, we wouldn't have to bray so much about the superiority of our system. It would be obvious to all, as obvious as a big light in the darkness.

To be a brighter beacon is not to choose passivity, or follow a path of selfishness. It would take energy and commitment and thought. We've always had a lot of that.

A happy Thanksgiving to all who love the great and fabled nation that is still, this day, the hope of the world.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father" (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Fridays on OpinionJournal.com.

25965  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: November 16, 2007, 12:05:47 AM
Which Silva is Houston fighting?
25966  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: November 15, 2007, 10:21:42 PM
An example of the profoundly anti-semitic bigotry affecting so much of the coverage of Israel

rticle in The Spectator.co.uk by Melanie Phillips
The al Durah blood libel
Wednesday, 14th November 2007

 

I am in Paris where I have attended the Court of Appeal special session called to witness the 27 minutes of hitherto unseen footage of the ‘killing’ of Mohammed al Durah which the court had required France 2 to produce. For readers who are unfamiliar with this scandal, I wrote about it here, here and here.

Suffice it to say here that the iconic image of the child Mohammed al Durah, pictured crouching with his father behind a barrel next to a concrete wall in an apparently vain attempt to shelter from the gun-battle between Israel and the Palestinians that was raging around them before he was allegedly shot dead by the Israelis, served to incite terrorist violence and atrocities around the world after it was transmitted by France 2 at the beginning of the second intifada. Yet it is clear to anyone looking at this in detail that the whole thing was staged, not least from the devastating evidence here which shows the boy raising his arm and peeping through his fingers seconds after the France 2 correspondent Charles Enderlin said he! had be en shot dead.

After Philippe Karsenty, founder of the French online media watchdog, Media Ratings, accused France 2 of staging the al Durah ‘killing’ and called for the resignation of both Charles Enderlin and France 2’s News Director, Arlette Chabot, France 2 and Enderlin sued Karsenty for defamation, and won. In a disgraceful piece of judicial cronyism after the gratuitous intervention of the then French President Jacques Chirac, the court decided against Karsenty and in favour of France 2 and Enderlin. Karsenty appealed; the judge ordered France 2 to produce the unscreened footage of this incident; today it did so.

Well, sort of. What it actually produced was 18 minutes out of the 27 it was required to bring forward. From this footage, which according to France 2’s Palestinian cameraman was filmed during an implausible 45 minutes of continuous shooting by Israeli soldiers, there is no evidence that anyone at all was killed or injured -- including Mohammed al Durah who by the end of the frames in which he figured seemed to be still very much alive and unmarked by any wound whatsoever.

The drama of today’s hearing was enhanced by the appearance of Enderlin himself, who until today had not graced this case with his presence. As the film was shown to a packed and overheated (in every sense) courtroom, Enderlin and Karsenty offered rival interpretations of the images on the screen. If Enderlin thought he would thus demonstrate the inadequacy of Karsenty’s case, he was very much mistaken. On the contrary, parts of his commentary were so absurd that the courtroom several times burst into incredulous laughter.

Enderlin offered only a vague, rambling and unconvincing explanation of why he had only produced 18 minutes of footage rather than the 27 he claimed to have received from his cameraman in Gaza (Enderlin himself was not in Gaza when these events occurred). After the hearing Professor Richard Landes, one of the people who had already seen the contested footage, said that two scenes had been cut out which clearly showed that the violence had been staged -- including one in which a Palestinian preparing to throw a missile is suddenly picked up and carried into an ambulance despite showing no signs of injury. This scene, said Landes, was filmed by Reuters, who actually filmed the France 2 cameraman filming it. Yet there was no sign of it today.

What struck me very forcibly about the 18 minutes overall was that, although this was supposed to have been filmed during continuous firing by the Israelis for 45 minutes, much of the footage consisted merely of a violent demonstration by stone throwing youths, many of whom who appeared to be enjoying the exercise. One child was pictured riding a bicycle through the melee. There was no evidence of any of them being killed or injured. From time to time, to be sure, youths were dragged onto stretchers and into ambulances – but there was no sign of anyone actually being shot, no-one falling under fire, no sign of any blood or injuries whatever. The nearest it got to an injury was a sequence in which a young man coyly pulled his shirt open a little to provide a glimpse of a neat red circle on his stomach, which he claimed was a (rubber?) bullet wound. But since he appeared to be in no pain whatever and was grinning throughout his turn for the camera, this seemed an eminently ! implaus ible way for someone who had just been hit by gunfire to behave.

There were many very strange things about this footage which just didn’t add up. When it came to the footage of the ‘killing’ of Mohammed al Durah, the following stood out:

* This sequence was not a continuous narrative but was repeatedly broken up and spliced onto footage of other scenes from the demonstration

* Although the France 2 cameraman had told a German film-maker, Esther Shapira, that he had filmed six minutes of the al Durah father and son under continuous Israeli fire, the footage of them lasted for less than one minute

* There was a camera tripod next to them

* There was no evidence of the boy actually being hit

* At one point, people in the crowd cried out that the boy was dead, while he was sitting up large as life clinging onto his father with his mouth wide open

 


* After he was said to be dead, he moved his arm (the sequence I have already reported which has been available on the web for years).

The Appeal Court is not due to give its verdict in this case until next February. As of today, such are the fresh contradictions and questions thrown up by the showing of this footage it would seem that France 2 has painted itself into a corner from which it will find it increasingly hard to escape.

But this scandal goes far beyond France 2. Soon after it transmitted the 55 seconds which showed the ‘killing’ of Mohammed al Durah, it helpfully sent various news agencies three minutes of the footage of this incident – including the frames in which the ‘dead’ child is seen moving, but which of course it had not broadcast. For reasons which invite speculation, not one of these agencies broadcast it either. Had they done so, there would have been no ‘killing’ of Mohammed al Durah and untold numbers of subsequent deaths would have been avoided.

It is therefore not surprising, but no less shocking, that with a couple of heroic exceptions the mainstream media has until very recently ignored the evidence suggesting that a monumental and deadly fraud was perpetrated here, indicators which have been around for years. As of today, the Karsenty case has been totally ignored by the mainstream French media. It is also deeply troubling that the Israel government ignored this evidence for seven years, that it is only very recently that its press spokesman Danny Seaman said the incident was staged, and that even now certain representatives of the Israel government are playing a most ambiguous role in defending their country against this modern blood libel.

The ‘killing’ of Mohammed al Durah was swallowed uncritically by the western media, despite the manifold unlikeliness and contradictions which were apparent from the start, because it accorded with the murderous prejudice against Israel which is the prism through which the Middle East conflict is habitually refracted. This scandal has the most profound implications not just for the media, not just for the Middle East conflict but for the western world’s relationship to reason, which seems to grow more tenuous by the day.
25967  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's Revolutionary Guards on: November 15, 2007, 09:52:28 PM
Who Are Iran's Revolutionary Guards?
By AMIR TAHERI
November 15, 2007; Page A25

The scene is a board meeting of Bank Sepah, Iran's second-largest financial institution, in Tehran. The directors are waiting for the sardar (literally "head-owner") to arrive. But the sardar is in a changing room, shedding his uniform for a civilian suit. The man in question is Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari, the new commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which owns and controls the bank.

Most Americans already know more about the IRGC than they'd like to. In September the Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of a nonbinding resolution urging President Bush to label the IRGC a terrorist group. He did so a month later and has since implemented harsh new sanctions targeting the business interests of the IRGC. As Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told the press recently, "It is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran you are doing business with the IRGC."

Still, there is much about this organization that is misunderstood. The IRGC is a unique beast. It is an army answerable to no one but the "Supreme Leader" of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It is also a business conglomerate that controls over 500 companies active in a wide range of industries -- from nuclear power to banking, life insurance to holiday resorts and shopping centers. By most estimates, the IRGC is Iran's third-largest corporation -- after the National Iranian Oil Company and the Imam Reza Endowment in the "holy" city of Mashhad, northeast of Tehran.

The Islamic Republic established by the Ayatollah Khomeini after the ouster of the Shah in 1979, is often labeled a "mullahrchy" -- a theocracy dominated by the Shiite clergy. The truth, however, is that a majority of Shiite clerics never converted to Khomeinism and did not endorse the Islamic Republic. In the past few years, especially since the election of President Ahmadinejad in 2005, those mullahs who converted to Khomeinism have lost some of their power and privileges. Today, the IRGC is the dominant force within the ruling establishment in Tehran. It is not a monolith, and to label all of it a "terrorist" organization as the Bush administration has done, may make it difficult to strike deals with parts of it when, and if, the opportunity arises.

A thorough analysis of the IRGC must take into account a number of facts. First, the IRGC is not a revolutionary army in the sense that the ALN was in Algeria or the Vietcong in Vietnam. Those were born during revolutionary wars in which they became key players.

The IRGC was created after the Khomeinist revolution had succeeded. This fact is of crucial importance. Those who joined the IRGC came from all sorts of backgrounds. The majority were opportunists. By joining the IRGC, they could not only obtain revolutionary credentials, often on fictitious grounds, but would also secure well-paying jobs, at a time that economic collapse made jobs rare.

Joining the IRGC enabled many who had cooperated with the ancien regime to rewrite their CVs and obtain "revolutionary virginity." Membership of the IRGC ensured access to rare goods and services, from color TVs to more decent housing. As the years went by, IRGC membership provided a fast track to social, political and economic success. Today, half of President Ahmadinejad's cabinet ministers are members of the IRGC, as is the president himself. IRGC members hold nearly a third of seats in the Islamic Consultative Assembly (Majlis), the ersatz parliament created in 1979. Twenty of Iran's 30 provinces have governors from the IRGC. IRGC members have also started capturing key posts in the diplomatic service. Today, for the first time, the Islamic Republic's ambassadors in such important places as the United Nations in New York and embassies in a dozen Western capitals are members of the IRGC.

But it is as an economic power that the IRGC weighs so heavily on Iranian politics. In 2004, a Tehran University study estimated the annual turnover of IRGC businesses at $12 billion with total net profits of $1.9 billion. The privatization package prepared by President Ahmadinejad is likely to increase the IRGC's economic clout. Almost all of the public-sector companies marked for privatization -- at a total value of $18 billion -- are likely to end up in the hands of the IRGC and its individual commanders.

The crown jewel of the IRGC's business empire is the Islamic Republic's nuclear program, which has cost the nation over $10 billion so far. This is part of a broader scheme of arms purchases and manufacture, which in total accounts for almost 11% of the annual national budget.

The IRGC also controls the lucrative business of "exporting the revolution" estimated to be worth $1.2 billion a year. It finances branches of the Hezbollah movement in at least 20 countries, including some in Europe, and provides money, arms and training for radical groups with leftist backgrounds. In recent years, it has emerged as a major backer of the armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas and both Shiite and Sunni armed groups in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The vehicle through which the IRGC "exports" revolution is a special unit known as The Quds (Jerusalem) Force. This consists of 15,000 highly trained men and women specializing in "martyrdom operations," a code word for guerrilla war, armed insurgency and terrorism. The Islamic Republic has invested some $20 billion in Lebanon since 1983. In most cases, the Lebanese branch of the Hezbollah is nominally in control. However, a closer examination reveals that in most cases the Lebanese companies are fronts for Iranian concerns controlled by the IRGC.

The IRGC is divided into five commands, each of which has a direct line to the Ayatollah Khamenei. To minimize the risk of coup d'etat, IRGC's senior officers are not allowed to engage in "sustained communication" with one another on "sensitive subjects." Of the five commands in question, two could be regarded as "terrorist" according to the U.S. State Department's definition that, needless to say, is rejected by the Islamic Republic.

One command is in charge of the already mentioned Quds Corps, which is waging indirect war against U.S. and allied forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Apart from Hezbollah and Hamas, it also runs a number of radical groups across the globe.

The second command ensures internal repression. It operates through several auxiliary forces, including the notorious Karbala, Ashura and Al Zahra (an all female unit) brigades, which are charged with crushing popular revolt. Many Iranians see these as instruments of terror.

As a parallel to the regular army, the IRGC has its ground forces, navy and air force. It also controls the so-called Basij Mustadafin (mobilization of the dispossessed), a fanatical, semi-voluntary force of 90,000 full-time fighters that could be built up to 11 million according to its commander Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hejazi. The IRGC's own strength stands at 125,000 men. Its officers' corps, including those in retirement, numbers around 55,000 and is as divided on domestic and foreign policies as the rest of society.

Some IRGC former commanders who did not share the Islamic Republic's goals have already defected to the U.S. Hundreds of others have gone into low-profile exile, mostly as businessmen in the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Turkey. An unknown number were purged because they refused to kill anti-regime demonstrators in Iranian cities.

Many prominent IRGC commanders may be regarded as businessmen first and military leaders second. Usually, they have a brother or a cousin in Europe or Canada to look after their business interests and keep a channel open to small and big "satans" in case the regime falls.

A few IRGC commanders, including some at the top, do not relish a conflict with the U.S. that could destroy their business empires without offering Iran victory on the battlefield. Indeed, there is no guarantee that, in case of a major war, all parts of the IRGC would show the same degree of commitment to the system. IRGC commanders may be prepared to kill unarmed Iranians or hire Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi radicals to kill others. However, it is not certain they would be prepared to die for President Ahmadinejad's glory. These concerns persuaded Ayatollah Khamenei to announce a Defense Planning Commission last year, controlled by his office.

A blanket labeling of the IRGC as "terrorist," as opposed to targeting elements of it that terrorize the Iranian people and others in the region and beyond, could prove counterproductive. It may, in fact, unite a fractious force that could splinter into more manageable parts given the right incentives.

Inside Iran, the IRGC is known as pasdaran (vigilantes) and inspires a mixture of intense hatred and grudging admiration. While many Iranians see it as a monster protecting an evil regime, others believe that, when the crunch comes, it will side with the people against an increasingly repressive and unpopular regime.

Mr. Taheri is author of "L'Irak: Le Dessous Des Cartes" (Editions Complexe, 2002).

25968  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: November 15, 2007, 09:40:06 PM
Any comments or predictions on the UFC this weekend?

I'm curious to see if Houston "Nitrous" Alexander can keep his explosive run going.
25969  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jews on first? on: November 15, 2007, 09:37:18 PM
Jews on first?

http://www.veoh.com/videoDetails.html?v=e107067WHhNhRh4

and one more:

From: "Marc Denny" <craftydog@dogbrothers.com>
To: "Marc Denny" <craftydog@dogbrothers.com>
Subject: Fw: Great Jewish Parrot Joke
Date: Thursday, November 15, 2007 7:34 PM



Sent: Thursday, November 15, 2007 7:06 PM
Subject: Fw: Great Jewish Parrot Joke


The Jewish Parrot


Meyer, a lonely widower, was walking home along Delancy Street one day
wishing something wonderful would happen in his life, when he passed a
pet store and heard a squawking voice shouting out in Yiddish,
"Quawwwwk...vus machts du?"

Meyer rubbed his eyes and ears. Couldn't believe it.
Perfect Yiddish.

The proprietor urged him, "Come in here, fella, and check out this parrot..."

Meyer did. An African Grey cocked his little head and said: "Vus?
Kenst sprechen Yiddish?"

In a matter of moments, Meyer had placed five hundred dollars on the
counter and carried the parrot in his cage away with him. All night he
talked with the parrot. In Yiddish. He told the parrot about his
father's adventures coming to America. About how beautiful his late
wife, Sarah, was when she was a young bride. About his family. About
his years of working in the garment district. About Florida.

The parrot listened and commented.

They shared some walnuts.

The parrot told him of living in the pet store, how lonely he would
get on the weekends. They both went to sleep.

Next morning, Meyer began to put on his Tfillin, all the while saying
his prayers. The parrot demanded to know what he was doing and when
Meyer explained, the parrot wanted to do the same. Meyer went out and
had a miniature set of tfillin hand made for the parrot.

The parrot wanted to learn to daven and learned every prayer. He even
wanted to learn to read Hebrew.

So Meyer spent weeks and months, sitting and teaching the parrot,
teaching him Torah. In time, Meyer came to love and count on the
parrot as a friend and fellow Jew.

One morning, on Rosh Hashanah, Meyer rose and got dressed and was
about to leave when the parrot demanded to go with him. Meyer
explained that Shul was not a place for a bird, but the parrot made a
terrific argument, so Meyer relented and carried the bird to Shul on
his shoulder.

Needless to say, they made quite a spectacle, and Meyer was questioned
by everyone, including the Rabbi and the Cantor. They refused to allow
a bird into the building on the High Holy Days, but Meyer persuaded
them to let him in this one time, swearing that the parrot could
daven. Wagers were made with Meyer.


Thousands of dollars were bet that the parrot could NOT daven, could
not speak Yiddish or Hebrew, etc.

All eyes were on the African Grey during services. The parrot perched
on Meyer's shoulder as one prayer and song passed - Meyer heard not a
peep from the bird. He began to become annoyed, slapping at his
shoulder and mumbling under his breath, "Daven!"

Nothing.

"Daven...parrot, you can daven, so daven...come on, everyone is looking at you!"

Nothing.

After Rosh Hashanah services were concluded, Meyer found that he owed
his Shul buddies and the Rabbi over four thousand dollars..


He marched home, so upset he said nothing to the parrot.

Finally several blocks from the Temple the Parrot began to sing an old
Yiddish song, as happy as a lark.


Meyer stopped and looked at him.

"Why? After I had tfillin made for you and taught you the morning
prayers, and taught you to read Hebrew and the Torah. And after you
begged me to bring you to Shul on Rosh Hashana, why? WHY?!? Why did
you do this to me?"

"Meyer, don't be a schmuck," the parrot replied. "Think of the odds
we'll get on Yom Kippur!"

25970  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ron Paul recieves police support on: November 15, 2007, 07:56:19 PM
NATION'S COPS APPLAUD PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE RON PAUL




By Jim Kouri
Posted 1:00 AM Eastern
November 14, 2007
NewsWithViews.com
While most of the politicians vying for their party's nomination for President of the United States pay lip service to the nation's law enforcement officers, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) is actually doing something to earn the respect and gratitude of America's cops, according to many police officers and organizations.
For example, the American Federation of Police -- with well over 100,000 members -- recently praised Ron Paul for introducing a bill that would help cops obtain topnotch body armor that would withstand rounds fired from most firearms. Rep. Paul's bill -- HR 3304 -- would amend the Internal Revenue Code to provide for a tax credit to law enforcement officers who purchase their own body armor.
"I urge all police officers and concerned citizens to contact their congressmen and ask them to support Rep. Paul's bill," said Deputy Sheriff Dennis Wise, president of the American Federation of Police.
"I would also like to applaud Congressman Ron Paul for his support and forward thinking in trying to help make law enforcement officers across our nation safer each day," said Wise.
Rep. Ron Paul appears to be popular with many US cops. "He's never found it necessary to force police officers to stand with him for photo opportunities the way other presidential candidates such as Hillary Clinton do," said New York Police Officer Edna Aguayo.
One police officer claims cops in New York and other states are forced to pose with the likes of Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain. If an officer refuses, he or she is charged with insubordination by their superiors.
"It's a joke how these cops are used as props during election campaigns. But Ron Paul doesn't pay cops lip service -- he actually works to help them enforce the law," said another cop forced to pose with Sen. Clinton during one of her staged "rallies."
Public opinion service Rasmussen Reports recently released data from its October 12-14 polling that indicates that Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul leads his GOP opponents against Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton among likely voters ages 30-49. He is the leading White House contender for the key demographic, polling higher than Clinton among baby boomers. Congressman Paul polls in at 47%, compared with Clinton's 44%, among likely voters aged 40-49.

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The 30-49 demographic has been a key indicator in recent elections, and one in which Republicans tend to fare well in hotly-contested elections. In 2004, exit polls reveal that George Bush beat John Kerry 53% to 46% among 30-44 year olds, and all accounts indicate that this will be the most instrumental demographic in the 2008 presidential election as well.
"Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate who can beat Hillary Clinton," claims political strategist Kent Snyder.
More than 3,000 police officers' lives have been saved by body armor since the mid-1970s when the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) began testing and developing body armor and performance standards for ballistic and stab resistance. Recognition and acceptance of the NIJ standard has grown worldwide, making it the performance benchmark for ballistic-resistant body armor.
Body armor can provide protection against a significant number of types of handgun ammunition, but law enforcement personnel must keep in mind that armor is categorized and rated for different threat levels. Additional protection should be worn for SWAT team operations, hostage rescues, or Special Operations assignments, when officers may be exposed to a weapon threat greater than the protection provided by regular duty armor, according to the National Institute of Justice.
Rank-and-file police officers also applaud Rep. Paul for his pro-sovereignty stance. "The talk must stop. We must secure our borders now. A nation without secure borders is no nation at all. It makes no sense to fight terrorists abroad when our own front door is left unlocked," said the Texas congressman during a campaign rally.

In addition, Congressman Ron Paul believes that the Second Amendment is "not about duck hunting." It is an individual right that is guaranteed. He stated that he believes it is about the citizenry having the ability to restrain tyrannical governments and would be dictators.
He believes the Second Amendment is about self-defense from criminal attack and from governments that break away from the chains of the Constitution. According to a poll conducted by the National Association of Chiefs of Police, more than 75% of the nation's police officers agree with Rep. Paul's stance on gun ownership including private citizens carrying concealed weapons for personal protection.
 
Just recently Congressman Paul opposed the reauthorization of the Clinton-Feinstein semi-auto gun ban. He opposes gun and gunowner registration. And Paul opposes government permission systems that force law-abiding citizens "prove" their innocence before buying or owning firearms.
AFP president Dennis Wise agrees with Rep. Paul's stance on gun control. "When our founding fathers assembled to write one of the greatest papers ever written -- our Constitution -- they put down the amendments ... in the order of their importance," said Wise.

25971  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Washington protects the Terror Masters on: November 15, 2007, 05:49:40 PM
Washington Protects the Terror Masters
by Daniel Pipes
Jerusalem Post
November 15, 2007
http://www.danielpipes.org/article/5124

[JP title: Washington's conflicting signals]

The Bush administration's counterterrorism policies appear tough, but inside the courtroom, they evaporate, consistently favoring not American terror victims, but foreign terrorists.

Consider a civil lawsuit arising from a September 1997 suicide bombing in Jerusalem. Hamas claimed credit for five dead and 192 wounded, including several Americans. On the grounds that the Islamic Republic of Iran had financed Hamas, five injured Americans students sued it for damages.

Expert testimony established the regime's culpability during a four-day trial, leading Judge Ricardo M. Urbina, under the Flatow Amendment of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, to fine the Iranian government and its Revolutionary Guard Corps US$251 million in compensatory and punitive damages.

The plaintiffs looked for Iranian government assets in the United States to seize, in accord with the little-known section, 201a of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002, which states that "Notwithstanding any other provision of law … in every case in which a person has obtained a judgment against a terrorist party on a claim based upon an act of terrorism … the blocked assets of that terrorist party … shall be subject to execution."

 
An ancient Iranian fragment similar to the ones in legal dispute in a terrorism case.
 
 
Finding Iranian assets, however, proved no easy task, as most of them had been withdrawn by the Iranian authorities after the embassy hostage crisis of 1979-81. Therefore, the victims' lead lawyer, David Strachman of Providence, R.I., devised some creative approaches, such as intercepting the imminent return of ancient Iranian clay tablets on loan to the University of Chicago for up to seventy years.

Strachman found just one significant cache of Iranian government money: approximately $150,000 at the Bank of New York, in an account belonging to Bank Melli, Iran's largest bank and a fully-owned subsidiary of the regime. However, when the plaintiffs sued for these funds, BoNY filed a federal lawsuit asking for a legal determination what to do with its Bank Melli assets.

The victims' task in this case may have appeared easy, given that the U.S. government (1) views Bank Melli as an "wholly-owned instrumentality" of the Iranian government and it (2) considers that government a "terrorist party."

But no, the U.S. Department of Justice "entered this case as amicus curiae in support of Bank Melli." It did so, explained a spokeswoman for the Treasury Department, "to vindicate a correct reading" of the U.S. regulation. Its amicus brief appears decisively to have influenced the trial judge, Denise Cote, who adopted the joint Bank Melli-Justice Department position in toto and ruled in March 2006 against the funds being awarded to the victims. The latter appealed to the Second Circuit Court, but it too sided with the Justice Department, dismissing the suit in April 2007.

Its funds then in the clear, Bank Melli immediately removed them all from BoNY and transferred them beyond U.S. jurisdiction.

The story does not end there. On October 25, the State Department announced that Bank Melli would henceforth be cut off from the U.S. financial system because it "provides banking services to entities involved in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs" by facilitating "numerous purchases of sensitive materials." Further, it found that Bank Melli "was used to send at least $100 million" to Iran's terrorist fronts, including those which had trained the Hamas members who perpetrated the 1997 Jerusalem bombing.

This incompetent outrage – Washington first helping Bank Melli, then sanctioning it – fits a larger pattern of federal agencies advocating in court on behalf of terrorists.

Justice tried to shield Tehran from victims' claims in the University of Chicago case.
It opposed the attachment of a mere $10,000 of Iranian funds to one 1997 victim family; and, when the family won in district court, it appealed the verdict.
It interceded in Ungar v. Hamas to prevent the orphaned victims' attachment of $5 million belonging to the Holy Land Foundation, a Texas organization prosecuted as a Hamas front.
In Ungar v. PLO and PA, the State Department rescued the Palestine Liberation Organization when the Ungars tried to enforce their $116 million judgment against a PLO-owned office building in Manhattan.
Is there not something deeply flawed about the U.S. government consistently siding with terrorists and, according to Strachman, "never once supporting terrorism victims to collect their judgments in court"? One hopes it will not require a new terrorist catastrophe to fix these misguided policies.

Other items in category Arab-Israel conflict & diplomacy
Other items in category Counter-terrorism
Other items in category Terrorism
Other items in category US policy
25972  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: November 15, 2007, 04:43:36 PM
Justice for Sale
How special-interest money threatens the integrity of our courts.

BY SANDRA DAY O'CONNOR
Thursday, November 15, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Voters generally don't express much interest in the election of judges. This year, as in years past, voter turnout in elections for judges was very low. But judicial elections, which occur in some form in 39 states, are receiving growing attention from those who seek to influence them. In fact, motivated interest groups are pouring money into judicial elections in record amounts. Whether or not they succeed in their attempts to sway the voters, these efforts threaten the integrity of judicial selection and compromise public perception of judicial decisions.

The final four candidates running for open seats on the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania raised more than $5.4 million combined in 2007, shattering fund-raising records in Pennsylvania judicial elections. Since 2006, high court campaigns in Georgia, Kentucky, Oregon and Washington also set fund-raising records. Since 2004, nine other states broke records for high court election spending.

Most of this money comes from special interest groups who believe that their contributions can help elect judges likely to rule in a manner favorable to their causes. As interest-group spending rises, public confidence in the judiciary declines. Nine out of 10 Pennsylvanians regard judicial fund raising as evidence that justice is for sale, and many judges agree. According to a nationwide survey by the Annenberg Public Policy Institute, partisan judicial elections decrease public confidence that courts are fair, impartial and operating in the best interest of the American people.

The first step that a state like Pennsylvania can take to reverse this trend is replace the partisan election of its judges with a merit-selection system, or at least with a nonpartisan system in which the candidates do not affiliate with political parties. In a typical merit-based system, an independent commission of knowledgeable citizens recommends several qualified candidates suitable for appointment by the governor of the state. After several years of service, the appointed judge's name is then submitted to the voters for an up or down vote known as a retention election.
The second step a state can take is set up campaign-conduct committees to educate voters and the media about the criteria people should use to select judges. These committees can also publicize accurate information about the sources of big contributions, providing the kind of transparency that allows voters to decide whether a judicial candidate's impartiality may be compromised by her contributors. Finally, the committees can flag inappropriate campaign conduct and provide information to help voters interpret charges made in campaign advertising sound bites.

The boundary of decency was certainly crossed in Pennsylvania this year when a candidate for the Supreme Court was called "the drug dealer's choice" by the opposing political party because of a decision that she had made to overturn a conviction based on an illegal search. Campaign-conduct committees can help restore a little perspective when the going gets too rough in judicial races.

The third step a state can take is distribute voter education pamphlets to provide accurate and unbiased information about the qualifications of a judicial candidate. Voter education guides can provide information about relevant qualifications that are often left out of campaign ads and meager media coverage.

These three reforms will help, but will not solve the problem of direct interest-group attacks on judicial candidates. Pennsylvania's experience demonstrates this problem. In addition to the contested Supreme Court seats, 67 state judges were up for retention election in Pennsylvania this year. Retention elections are historically very low profile, but they became contentious in 2007 when a small but organized grass-roots campaign sought to oust all but one of the judges whose names were before the voters because the judges had accepted a legislatively enacted pay raise rather than returning the money to the state treasury. They attacked the judges as "pigs in robes," conjuring images of greedy out-of-control politicians.

Fortunately, Pennsylvania voters were not swayed by the spurious attack, but that doesn't mean that the attacks weren't harmful, as they were essentially all anyone heard about Pennsylvania's 2007 retention elections. One of the dangers of low media coverage and high interest-group spending is that voters hear only from activists who have targeted a particular judicial race. The Pennsylvania retention races show how easily the issues in judicial elections can be controlled by special interests.

Special interest appeals to emotion and policy preferences tempt voters to join efforts to control the decisions of judges. Voters are less likely to devote themselves to the core value of judicial independence, because when judges apply the law fairly and impartially they cannot guarantee the outcome any particular voter might want. But fair and impartial judging is an essential part of our government, and must be preserved.

In the long term, a commitment to judicial independence will only come from robust civics education, starting at a very young age. Today, only a little more than one-third of Americans can name the three branches of government--much less explain the balance of power among them. If we lose appreciation for our government's structure and the role of the judiciary within it, it is only a matter of time before the judicial branch becomes just another political arm of the government. With the stakes so high, we cannot wait until the election cycle to educate the citizenry. We must start with civics education in our nation's schools.
Perhaps children can understand the role of a fair and impartial judiciary better than any of us. Children depend on their teachers, their parents and their sports referees to know the rules and to apply them fairly. Thus schools are the ideal place for the life-long process of civics education to begin. In the meantime, we need to look at practical short-term reforms that will restore public confidence in the selection of state judges.

Justice O'Connor is a retired associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

25973  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: November 15, 2007, 04:33:22 PM
A court in the ultra-conservative kingdom of Saudi Arabia is punishing a female victim of gang rape with 200 lashes and six months in jail, a newspaper reported on Thursday.

The 19-year-old woman -- whose six armed attackers have been sentenced to jail terms -- was initially ordered to undergo 90 lashes for "being in the car of an unrelated male at the time of the rape," the Arab News reported.

But in a new verdict issued after Saudi Arabia's Higher Judicial Council ordered a retrial, the court in the eastern town of Al-Qatif more than doubled the number of lashes to 200.

A court source told the English-language Arab News that the judges had decided to punish the woman further for "her attempt to aggravate and influence the judiciary through the media."

Saudi Arabia enforces a strict Islamic doctrine known as Wahhabism and forbids unrelated men and women from associating with each other, bans women from driving and forces them to cover head-to-toe in public.

Last year, the court sentenced six Saudi men to between one and five years in jail for the rape as well as ordering lashes for the victim, a member of the minority Shiite community.

But the woman's lawyer Abdul Rahman al-Lahem appealed, arguing that the punishments were too lenient in a country where the offence can carry the death penalty.

In the new verdict issued on Wednesday, the Al-Qatif court also toughened the sentences against the six men to between two and nine years in prison.

The case has angered members of Saudi Arabia's Shiite community. The convicted men are Sunni Muslims, the dominant community in the oil-rich Gulf state.

Lahem, also a human rights activist, told AFP on Wednesday that the court had banned him from handling the rape case and withdrew his licence to practise law because he challenged the verdict.

He said he has also been summoned by the ministry of justice to appear before a disciplinary committee in December.

Lahem said the move might be due to his criticism of some judicial institutions, and "contradicts King Abdullah's quest to introduce reform, especially in the justice system."

King Abdullah last month approved a new body of laws regulating the judicial system in Saudi Arabia, which rules on the basis of sharia, or Islamic law.


Copyright AFP 2007, AFP stories and photos shall not be published, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed directly or indirectly in any medium
25974  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November 18, 2007 Dog Bros Gathering of the Pack on: November 15, 2007, 04:18:17 PM
Woof All:

An eagle-eyed reader has noted that we failed to mention in the invitation the admission of $15 and the starting time of 11:00 AM.

TAC,
CD
25975  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Gathering! Fighters thread on: November 15, 2007, 04:08:29 PM
Speaking of that JCVD fight scene in Lionheart-- his opponent in that fight was Stuart , , , Wilson (?) who was a buddy in my days in the mid 80s with Paul Vunak.  His dad was Mr. Whipple in the Charmin toilet paper ads ("Don't squeeze the Charmin").

But I digress , , ,

I'm playing phone tag with Nigel over at OP about the wall , , ,
25976  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The ping goes on , , , on: November 15, 2007, 10:44:01 AM
http://www.theaviationnation.com/200...d-with-mirror/

(U//FOUO) Suspicious Activity Onboard Flight to Milwaukee
(U//FOUO) On 24 October 2007, crewmembers aboard a Reagan-Washington National to Milwaukee General Mitchell International Airport flight reported to a Federal Flight Deck Officer (FFDO) flying in non-mission status that they noticed suspicious behavior by four passengers.
One of the subjects entered and exited the rear aircraft lavatory three times and failed to comply with crewmembers' verbal instructions. The FFDO seated himself near this subject to observe his behavior. Shortly afterward, two more of the subjects moved into the aisles and entered both lavatories. After one of the subjects vacated the rear left lavatory, the FFDO searched it, noting that the mirror above the sink was not properly latched.
He exited the lavatory and a fourth subject was waiting second in line with a passenger in front of him. The FFDO offered the fourth subject access to the right lavatory, but the subject declined, claiming the right lavatory was dirty.The FFDO noted the right lavatory was clean, and the subject reluctantly entered the right lavatory and remained there for an extended period of time. (TSA/SD-10-3849-07)
(U//FOUO) TSA Office of Intelligence Comment: Although there is no information that the aircraft was being specifically targeted for a future terrorist attack, the actions of the four passengers are highly suspicious. FFDO confirmation of possible tampering of the lavatory mirror in one of the lavatories could be indicative of an attempt to locate concealment areas for smuggling criminal contraband or terrorist materials. In this case, it appears the left lavatory was the sole area of interest for the passengers. One subject's excuse that the right lavatory was dirty when it was confirmed to be clean shows the four passengers had a specific, operational objective. Although unconfirmed at this time, this incident has many of the elements of pre-operational terrorist planning.
Source: TSA Suspicious Incidents Report #177
25977  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on taxation on: November 15, 2007, 08:33:11 AM
"Excessive taxation...will carry reason and reflection to every
man's door, and particularly in the hour of election."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Taylor, 1798)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson (Memorial Edition),
Lipscomb and Bergh, eds., 10:64.
25978  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Gathering! Fighters thread on: November 14, 2007, 03:27:33 PM
Folks:

OP is wanting out of setting up a wall again.  I liked having it, but want to ask everyone: Is this something that matters to us? 

TAC,
CD
25979  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fall Gathering! Fighters thread on: November 14, 2007, 12:49:28 PM
One of the EMTs who will be there suggests bringing "Crazy Glue" for temp repair of any severe cuts.

Also, Tricky Dog sends his regrets.  He mentions he plans to be at the Summer Gathering with shield and spear, shield and stick.
25980  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: November 14, 2007, 12:44:33 PM
The birth rate numbers stated in the article are quite extraordinary-- working from memory here of my reading of Mark Steyn's "America Alone", Germany is a disaster at 1.3 and Spain is in a virtual spiral down the drain at 1.1 (2.1 is the level at which a population maintains), but .66?!?  After 6.5?!?  If I calculate correctly, at 6.5 rate means that there was a population growth rate of 4.4%!!!  Still working from memory, when I studied Mexico in the seventies its pop growth rate was 3.6 or so (which was considered off the charts, and 4.4% is roughly 4/3 of that rate!!!)  and that the numbers cranked out to half its population being 16 years of age or less. 

I must say that I find both numbers highly unusual and would like to see some sort of confirmation elsewhere.
25981  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson , Franklin on: November 14, 2007, 11:03:21 AM
“Newspapers... serve as chimnies to carry off noxious vapors and smoke.” —Thomas Jefferson

"Be in general virtuous, and you will be happy."

-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to John Alleyne, 9 August 1768)

Reference: The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Sparks, ed., vol. 7
(415)
25982  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: November 14, 2007, 09:13:04 AM
A Hizbollah Mole?
Case against CIA spy shocks counter-intelligence community

By Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 7:46 PM ET Nov 13, 2007

A former FBI agent who pleaded guilty Tuesday to fraudulently obtaining U.S. citizenship and then improperly accessing sensitive computer information about Hizbollah was working until about a year ago as a CIA spy assigned to Middle East operations, Newsweek has learned.

The stunning case of Nada Nadim Prouty, a 37-year-old Lebanese native who is related to a suspected Hizbollah money launderer, appears to raise a nightmarish question for U.S. intelligence agencies: Could one of the world's most notorious terrorist groups have infiltrated the U.S. government?

"I'm beginning to think it's possible that Hizbollah put a mole in our government," said Richard Clarke, the former White House counter-terrorism chief under Presidents Clinton and, until 2002, Bush. "It's mind-blowing."

A U.S. official familiar with the case said Tuesday that the government's investigation has uncovered no evidence so far that Prouty, who was employed by the CIA until last week, had compromised any undercover operations or passed along sensitive intelligence information to Hizbollah operatives. After joining the CIA in June 2003, Prouty was an undercover officer for the agency's National Clandestine Service, the espionage division, working on Middle East-related cases. She was reassigned to a less sensitive position about a year ago, after she first came under suspicion, officials said.

Prosecutors have not charged Prouty with espionage. Nonetheless, the case remains an "ongoing investigation" and "that is obviously something we're looking at," a senior law enforcement official said. Her lawyer declined comment today. Under the terms of her plea agreement, she faces six to twelve months behind bars, and could be stripped of her U.S. citizenship.

The case is clearly a major embarrassment for both the FBI and CIA and has already raised a host of questions. Chief among them: how did an illegal alien from Lebanon who was working as a waitress at a shish kabob restaurant in Detroit manage to slip through extensive security background checks, including polygraphs, to land highly sensitive positions with the nation's top law enforcement and intelligence agencies?

Indeed, the bizarre details of the Prouty investigation—which include connections to both Hizbollah and a multi-million dollar bribery ring involving a former senior U.S. Homeland Security official—could ultimately be cast as a war-on-terror version of the notorious spy cases of Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen, Soviet spies who worked for the CIA and FBI respectively.

"It's hard to imagine a greater threat than the situation where a foreign national uses fraud to attain citizenship and then, based on that fraud, insinuates herself into a sensitive position in the U.S. government," said Stephen J. Murphy, the U.S. attorney in Detroit.

According to court papers filed Tuesday, Prouty pleaded guilty to three charges in federal court in Detroit: naturalization fraud; unlawfully accessing a federal computer system to obtain information about her relatives as well as Hizbollah; and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

Prouty, according to court documents, first entered the United States from Lebanon in 1989 on a one-year, non-immigrant student visa. After her visa expired, she illegally remained in the country, residing in Taylor, Michigan with her sister and another individual. In order to stay in the country and evade immigration laws, she offered money to an unemployed U.S. citizen to marry her in the summer of 1990. But, according to her indictment, Prouty "never lived as husband and wife with her fraudulent 'husband' and the marriage was never consummated sexually."
By 1992, the court papers say, Prouty landed a job as a waitress and hostess at La Shish, a popular chain of Middle Eastern shish kabob restaurants in the Detroit area owned by a Lebanese businessman, Talil Khalil Chahine, who later came under federal investigation for his suspected ties to Hizbollah.

At this point, Prouty's case seemed like a garden variety case of marriage and immigration fraud. But as laid out in the court papers, the story took a more ominous turn in April, 1999, when Prouty, using the alias of "Nada Nadim Alley" and her fraudulently-obtained U.S. citizenship, landed a job as an FBI special agent. Prouty got the job under a special FBI "language program" designed to recruit Arabic and other foreign-language speakers, a bureau official said today. Not only was she quickly granted a security clearance, she was then assigned to the bureau's Washington field office, where she worked on an extraterritorial squad investigating crimes against U.S. persons overseas. In that capacity, Prouty in September 2000 improperly tapped into bureau computers to access information about herself, her sister, and Chahine. Three years later, Prouty again tapped into bureau computers to obtain information about a case she was not assigned to: a national security investigation targeting Hizbollah being conducted by the Detroit field office.

Prouty, the court papers suggest, may have had a personal motive for seeking information about Chahine and Hizbollah. Her sister, Elfat El Aouar, had by then married Chahine and both of them in August 2002 had attended a "fundraising event in Lebanon." The keynote speakers at the event, according to the court papers, were Chahine and Sheikh Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, the spiritual leader of Hizbollah, who has been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department as a "Specially Designated Global Terrorist."

Chahine was subsequently charged in two federal indictments. One of them last year accused him of skimming $20 million from his chain of restaurants in Detroit and routing some of that cash to unnamed persons in Lebanon. (Prouty's sister was also charged in that case. She has since pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 18 months in prison last May.) In the second indictment last month, Chahine—now believed to be a fugitive in Lebanon—was charged with conspiring with a former senior official of the Homeland Security's office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in Detroit to extort funds from former employees of Chahine's La Shish restaurant chain. (Although he has since left the country, his lawyer has denied that Chahine had any involvement in terrorism.) The ICE official, Roy Bailey, was accused of misusing his position to accept "large sums of currency and other property in return for granting immigration benefits," according to a Justice Department press release last month. (Bailey has entered a plea of not guilty.)

Officials emphasized that there is still there is much they don't know about Prouty's activities—most importantly, whether she was actively providing U.S. government intelligence to Hizbollah. But the FBI acknowledged Tuesday that they didn't discover Prouty's connections to Hizbollah until December 2005—apparently as a result of the ICE bribery probe--and more than two years after she left the bureau to go work for the CIA's Clandestine Service. Eventually, the bureau alerted the agency and the CIA later reassigned her into a less sensitive position, a U.S. official said. But while both agencies are still doing damage control assessments, the mere fact that Prouty got as far as she did has stunned the counter-intelligence community. "This is not good," said one chagrined senior official, who, like all officials quoted anonymously in this story, declined to speak on the record owing to the sensitivity of the subject.

Paul Gimigliano, a CIA spokesman, said: "The CIA, among other federal agencies, cooperated with the investigation. Ms. Prouty was a mid-level employee who came to us in 2003 from the FBI, where she had been a special agent. The naturalization issue occurred well before she was hired by the Bureau. She formally resigned from the federal service as part of her plea agreement."



URL: http://www.newsweek.com/id/70309
25983  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Friedman: Are we turning the corner in Iraq? on: November 13, 2007, 04:13:48 PM
Iraq: Positive Signs
By George Friedman

The latest reports concerning the war in Iraq suggest the situation is looking up for the United States. First, U.S. military and Iraqi civilian casualties continue to fall. Second, there are confirmed reports that Sunni insurgents controlled by local leaders have turned on al Qaeda militants, particularly those from outside the country. Third, the head of U.S. Central Command, in an interview with the Financial Times, implied that an attack against Iran is a distant possibility.

It is tempting to say the United States has turned the corner on the war. The temptation might not be misplaced, but after many disappointments since 2003, it is prudent to be cautious in declaring turning points -- and it is equally prudent not to confuse a turning point with a victory. That said, given expectations that the United States would be unable to limit violence in Iraq, and that Sunni insurgents would remain implacable -- not to mention the broad expectation of a U.S. attack against Iran -- these three points indicate a reversal -- and must be taken seriously.

The most startling point is the decline in casualties, and particularly the apparent decline in sectarian violence. Explaining this is difficult. It could simply be the result of the more efficient use of U.S. troops in suppressing the insurgency and controlling the Shiite militias. If that were the only explanation, however, it would be troubling. Standard guerrilla warfare doctrine holds that during periods of intense enemy counterinsurgency operations, guerrillas should cease fighting, hide weapons and equipment and blend into the civilian population. Only after the enemy shifts its area of operations or reduces operational tempo should the guerrillas resume combat operations. Under no circumstances should insurgents attempt to fight a surge.

Therefore, if we were considering U.S. military operations alone, few conclusions could be drawn until after the operations shifted or slowed. In addition, in a country of 25 million, the expectation that some 167,000 troops -- many of them not directly involved in combat -- could break the back of an entrenched insurgency is optimistic. The numbers simply don't work, particularly when Shiite militias are added to the equation. Therefore, if viewed simply in terms of military operations, the decline in casualties would not validate a shift in the war until much later, and our expectation is that the insurgency would resume prior levels of activity over time.

What makes the situation more hopeful for the United States is the clear decline in civilian casualties. Most of those were caused not by U.S. combat operations but by sectarian conflict, particularly between Sunnis and Shia. Part of the decline can be explained by U.S. operations, but when we look at the scope and intensity of sectarian fighting, it is difficult to give U.S. operations full credit. A more likely explanation is political, a decision on the part of the various sectarian organizations to stop operations not only against the Americans but also against each other.

There were two wars going on in Iraq. One was against the United States. The more important war, from the Iraqi point of view, was the Sunni-Shiite struggle to determine who would control Iraq's future. Part of this struggle, particularly on the Shiite side, was intrasectarian violence. All of it was political and, in a real sense, it was life and death. It involved the control of neighborhoods, of ministries, of the police force and so on. It was a struggle over the shape of everyday life. If either side simply abandoned the struggle, it would leave a vacuum for the other. U.S. operations or not, that civil war could not be suspended. To a significant extent, however, it has been suspended.

That means that some political decisions were made, at least on the local level and likely at higher levels as well, as several U.S. authorities have implied recently. Civilian casualties from the civil war would not have dropped as much as they have without some sort of political decisions to restrain forces, and those decisions could not be made unilaterally or simply in response to U.S. military pressure. It required a set of at least temporary political arrangements. And that, in many ways, is more promising than simply a decline because of U.S. combat operations. The political arrangements open the door to the possibility that the decline in casualties is likely to be longer lasting.

This brings us to the second point, the attacks by the Sunnis against the jihadists. Immediately after the invasion in 2003, the United States essentially attempted to strip the Sunnis -- the foundation of Saddam Hussein's strength -- of their power. The U.S. de-Baathification laws had the effect of eliminating the Sunni community's participation in the future of Iraq. Viewing the Shia -- the victims of Hussein's rule -- as likely interested not only in dominating Iraq but also in retribution against the Sunnis, the Sunni leadership, particularly at the local level, supported and instigated an insurgency against U.S. forces. The political purpose of the insurgency was to force the United States to shift its pro-Shiite policy and include the Sunnis, from religious to Baathist, in the regime.

Given the insurgency's political purpose, the power of U.S. forces and the well-organized Shiite militias, the Iraqi Sunnis were prepared to form alliances wherever they could find them. A leading source of support for the Iraqi Sunnis came from outside Iraq, among the Sunni jihadist fighters who organized themselves under the banner of al Qaeda and, weapons in hand, infiltrated the country from outside, particular through Syria.

Nevertheless, there was underlying tension between the local Sunnis and the jihadists. The Iraqi Sunnis were part of the local power structure, many having been involved in the essentially secular Baath Party, and others, more religious, having remained outside the regime but ruled by traditional tribal systems. The foreign jihadists were revolutionaries not only in the sense that they were prepared to fight the Americans but also in that they wanted to revolutionize -- radically Islamize -- the local Sunni community. By extension, they wanted to supplant the local leadership with their own by supporting and elevating new local leaders dependent for their survival on al Qaeda power.

For an extended period of time, the United States saw the Sunni insurgency as consisting of a single fabric. The local insurgents and the jihadists were viewed as the same, and the adopted name of the jihadists, al Qaeda, caused the Americans to see them as the primary enemy. Over time, and particularly since the death of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the United States has adopted a more nuanced view of the Sunni insurgency, drawing a distinction between the largely native Iraqi insurgents and the largely foreign jihadists.

Once this occurred and the United States began to make overtures to the native Iraqi insurgents, the underlying tensions between the foreign jihadists and the Iraqi insurgents emerged. The Sunnis, over time, came to see the jihadists as a greater danger to them than the Americans, and by the time U.S. President George W. Bush last visited Iraq, several Sunni leaders were prepared to be seen publicly with him. The growing animosities eventually turned into active warfare between the two factions, with al Qaeda being outnumbered and outgunned and the natives enjoying all of the perks of having the home-court advantage.

From the U.S. point of view, splitting the Sunni insurgency politically and militarily was important not only for the obvious reasons but also for influencing the Shia. From a Shiite point of view -- and now let's introduce Iran, the primary external backer of Iraq's Shiites -- the worst-case scenario would be the re-establishment of a predominantly Sunni government in Baghdad backed by the U.S. military. The political accommodation between the United States and the Iraqi Sunnis represented a direct threat to the Shia.

It is important to recall that Hussein and his Baathist predecessors -- all Sunnis leading a predominantly Sunni government -- were able to dominate the more numerous Shia for decades. The reason was that the Shia were highly fragmented politically, more so than the Sunnis. This historic factionalization made the Shia much weaker than their numbers would have indicated. It was no accident that the Sunnis dominated the Shia.

And the Shia remained fragmented. While the Sunnis were fighting an external force, the Shia were fighting both the Sunnis and one another. Given those circumstances, it was not inconceivable that the United States would try, and perhaps succeed, to re-establish the status quo ante of a united Iraq under a Sunni government -- backed by U.S. power until Iraq could regenerate its own force. Of course, that represented a reversal of the original U.S. goal of establishing a Shiite regime.

For Iran, this was an intolerable outcome because it would again raise the possibility of an Iran-Iraq war -- in which Iran might take another million casualties. The Iranian response was to use its influence among the competing Shiite militias to attack the Sunnis and to inflict casualties on American troops, hoping to force a withdrawal. Paradoxically, while the jihadists are the Iranians' foe, they were useful to Tehran because the more they attacked the Shia -- and the more the Shia retaliated -- the more the Sunnis and al Qaeda aligned -- which kept the United States and the Sunnis apart. Iran, in other words, wanted a united Sunni-jihadist movement because it would wreck the emerging political arrangements. In addition, when the Iranians realized that the Democrats in the U.S. Congress were not going to force a U.S. withdrawal, their calculations about the future changed.

Caught between al Qaeda and the militias, the Sunnis were under intense pressure. The United States responded by conducting operations against the jihadists -- trying to limit engagements with Iraqi Sunni insurgents -- and most important, against Shiite militias. The goal was to hold the Sunnis in the emerging political matrix while damaging the militias that were engaging the Sunnis. The United States was trying increase the cost to the Shia of adhering to the Iranian strategy.

At the same time, the United States sought to intimidate the Iranians by raising, and trying to make very real, the possibility that the United States would attack them as well. As we have argued, the U.S. military options are limited, so an attack would make little military sense. The Iranians, however, could not be certain that the United States was being rational about the whole thing, which was pretty much what the United States wanted. The United States wanted the Shia in Iraq to see the various costs of following the Iranian line -- including creating a Sunni-dominated government -- while convincing the Iranians that they were in grave danger of American military action.

In this context, we find the third point particularly interesting. Adm. William Fallon's interview with the Financial Times -- in which he went out of its way to downplay the American military threat to Iran -- was not given by accident. Fallon does not agree to interviews without clearance. The United States was using the interview to telegraph to Iran that it should not have undue fear of an American attack.

The United States can easily turn up the heat again psychologically, though for the moment it has chosen to lower it. By doing so, we assume Washington is sending two messages to Iran. First, it is acknowledging that creating a predominantly Sunni government is not its first choice. Also, it is rewarding Iran for the decline in violence by the Shiite militias, which undoubtedly required Tehran to shift its orders to its covert operatives in Iraq.

The important question is whether we are seeing a turning point in Iraq. The answer is that it appears so, but not primarily because of the effectiveness of U.S. military operations. Rather, it is the result of U.S. military operations coupled with a much more complex and sophisticated approach to Iraq. To be more precise, a series of political initiatives that the United States had undertaken over the past two years in fits and starts has been united into a single orchestrated effort. The result of these efforts was a series of political decisions on the part of various Iraqi parties not only to reduce attacks against U.S. troops but also to bring the civil war under control.

A few months ago, we laid out four scenarios for Iraq, including the possibility that that United States would maintain troops there indefinitely. At the time, we argued against this idea on the assumption that what had not worked previously would not work in the future. Instead, we argued that resisting Iranian power required that efforts to create security be stopped and troops moved to blocking positions along the Saudi border. We had not calculated that the United States would now supplement combat operations with a highly sophisticated and nuanced political offensive. Therefore, we were wrong in underestimating the effectiveness of the scenario.

That said, a turning point is not the same as victory, and the turning point could turn into a failure. The key weaknesses are the fragmented Shia and the forces and decisions that might emerge there, underwritten by Iran. Everything could be wrecked should Iran choose to take the necessary risks. For the moment, however, the Iranians seem to be exercising caution, and the Shia are responding by reducing violence. If that trend continues, then this really could be a turning point. Of course, any outcome that depends on the Shia and Iranians doing what the United States hopes they will do is fragile. Iran in particular has little interest in giving the United States a graceful solution unless it is well compensated for it. On the other hand, for the moment, Tehran is cooperating. This could simply be another instance of Iran holding off before disappointing the United States, or it could mean it has reason to believe it will be well compensated. Revealing that compensation -- if it is coming -- is the next turn of the wheel.


25984  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines on: November 13, 2007, 11:43:24 AM
Mighty Dog

There's a new lease on life for the dogs of war: For Veteran's day, SPCA International kicked off a program to repatriate the Iraqi pets that have become adored companions of American troops serving in Iraq. Inspiring the effort was a story the group learned of one flea-bitten and starved puppy named Charlie. The "size of a potato," he was rescued during a routine patrol and gradually brought from the edge of extinction by a diet of MREs. He's now the official Charlie Company mascot.

The plan, called Operation Baghdad Pups (www.baghdadpups.com), aims to make sure "no buddy gets left behind," despite obstructionist military regulations and a cost estimated at $4000 per dog. The bond between soldiers and their faithful friends, of course, is legendary: A dog named "Stubby" received the rank of sergeant in WWI and at least three dogs were recognized for valor in WWII. These days, there's even a United States War Dogs Association to honor the memory of man's best friend in peace and war.

-- Collin Levy
WSJ
25985  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Clips de Video de interes on: November 13, 2007, 11:27:28 AM
Enfocado en su tarea, un hombre esta' asaltado-- y abandonado por su amigo:

 http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=323_1194597695
25986  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: November 13, 2007, 11:05:05 AM

IRAN, CHINA: Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi arrived in Iran for talks with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki regarding Tehran's nuclear program, state news agency IRNA reported. Ahead of the visit, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying, "We urge Iran to respond to the concerns of the international community and take a more flexible stance so as to promote a resolution on the issue."

U.K., IRAN: The United Kingdom plans to push to curb investments in Iran if the Iranian government fails to address the nuclear issue, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Nov. 12, according to media reports. Unless EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the International Atomic Energy Agency provide positive reports on Iran's activities, Brown said his country "will lead in seeking tougher sanctions both at the United Nations and in the European Union, including on oil and gas investment and the financial sector."

stratfor
25987  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: November 13, 2007, 07:42:14 AM
More Taxes vs. More Savings

One debate we'd like to see is Barack Obama versus Fred Thompson. Both men have just unveiled approaches to Social Security reform that couldn't be more sharply distinct.

Mr. Obama told "Meet the Press" on Sunday that higher Social Security taxes are the answer to the system's looming insolvency. "I think the best way to approach this is to adjust the cap on the payroll tax so that people like myself are paying a little bit more and people who are in need are protected," he said.

Currently, only the first $97,500 of a person's annual income is taxed. He properly zinged Hillary Clinton for saying publicly she doesn't favor raising payroll taxes, but quietly telling an Iowa voter this month that she would look favorably on the idea.

Fred Thompson spent much of last Friday explaining the details of his own Social Security plan. He'd leave untouched the benefits of near-term retirees 57 and older, but would reduce benefits for younger workers by indexing them to inflation, not wage growth. Younger workers would also be given the option of contributing up to 2% of their monthly wages, matched by the federal government, into personal retirement accounts similar to a 401(k) plan.

"My plan to protect Social Security guarantees promises made to our seniors and gives today's workers more choice and greater opportunity for their future," said Mr. Thompson.

No doubt Mr. Obama would attack the Thompson plan's resemblance to the personal-accounts proposal put forth by the Bush administration in 2005, which flopped in Congress. Mr. Thompson's plan is also aimed at increasing private retirement savings so Americans can enjoy a more comfortable retirement than Social Security can provide. But his approach doesn't involve diverting payroll tax receipts into private accounts. "There's no reason to run for president of the United States if you can't tell the American people the truth about complex issues like Social Security," he said in a statement released with his plan.

Of course, hoping for such a debate is no doubt a pipe dream. But the media has now been put on notice that at least some candidates have decided to touch the third rail of Social Security and actually want to talk about it.

-- John Fund
The Case for Disqualifying Hillary

Two generations after anti-nepotism laws began to open up civil-service positions to excluded groups like Jews and blacks, "the pendulum seems to be swinging the other way," says Adam Bellow, author of a book entitled "In Praise of Nepotism."

But there are countervailing pressures springing from the deep-seated American distrust of those who seem to ascend to high office in part through artificial privilege. More and more voters are bringing up the fact that if Hillary Clinton is elected and re-elected as president, two dynastic families will have shared the White House for an amazing 28 years.

That's why Grover Norquist, the conservative who runs Americans for Tax Reform, is a few weeks away from unveiling a proposed constitutional amendment that would ban family members from succeeding each other to elected or appointed office. As a parallel, he points out that term limits for the president were once unneeded because office-holders observed the Founders' wishes voluntarily. That changed when FDR broke the unwritten rule by running for a third and fourth term. Today, says Mr. Norquist, we need a formal ban on nepotism in the form of a "Protection From Families" amendment to our governing document.

"We're the United States of America. How can we say to President Mubarak [of Egypt], 'You can't hand off the presidency to your son,'... or, 'Hey Syria and North Korea, you've got to knock this stuff off and be like us,'" he told the London Times.

Mr. Norquist agrees nothing will change the natural human impulse to seek advantage for one's kin. But political dynasties don't sit well with most Americans. In 1960, a Scripps-Howard reporter won a Pulitzer Prize for the shocking revelation that one in five members of Congress had relatives on the official payroll.

Though his version wouldn't technically ban Hillary's run this year (since she wouldn't be directly succeeding her husband), Mr. Norquist, a long-time Republican strategist, knows such a debate would highlight an unattractive aspect of her candidacy. The issue is underlined by the recent presidential election in Argentina, where Cristina Kirchner, wife of current president Nestor Kirchner, will switch roles with him early next year. Her case shows the danger is high with presidential office, whose glamour and power can be handed off to one's relatives. Americans like to think of themselves as having a more mature democracy than that. Mr. Norquist's proposed amendment is a good starting point for a needed debate.

Political Journal/WSJ
25988  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: November 13, 2007, 06:25:43 AM
And here is a completely different take, also from the WSJ:

Indira and the Islamists
By SHIKHA DALMIA
November 13, 2007

The Bush administration has so far taken only perfunctory steps to prod Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to lift "emergency rule," reinstate the constitution and hold elections. Doing anything more, the United States seems to fear, might produce an Islamist victory at the polls -- and undermine a key ally in its war on terror. In effect, the old foreign policy bogeyman of the "fear of the alternative" is back in the White House.

But at least with respect to Pakistan, this fear ought to be banished. If anything, the longer Mr. Musharraf is allowed to suspend democracy, the more politically powerful Pakistan's religious extremists are likely to become. Those who doubt this thesis should peer across Pakistan's southern border and examine what happened during India's two-year flirtation with emergency rule in 1975.

 
Like Mr. Musharraf, India's then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared emergency after a state high court invalidated the elections that had brought her to power, on grounds of corruption and fraud. But instead of stepping down, she gave herself extraordinary powers and launched a massive crackdown on every democratic institution that India had painstakingly built since its independence from the British in 1947. She threw leaders of opposition parties behind bars and clamped down on the press, threatening to cut off the power supply to newspapers that refused to submit to her censorship. She also banned political activity by grassroots organizations.

Shutting down these institutions had a perverse side effect from which India's secular democracy has yet to fully recover: It left the field of resistance open to Hindu extremist groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its then political front Jan Sangh, allowing them to regain the political legitimacy they had lost after one of their erstwhile recruits assassinated Mahatma Gandhi. The RSS was banned shortly after the assassination, but once the ban was lifted, it decentralized its organization further, making it harder for authorities to keep track of all its activities. The RSS maintained a public face of a charitable social organization, but beneath that facade lay a more sinister side that engaged in communal sectarian incitement and other subversive activities.

The RSS's quasi-underground character proved to be a vital asset after Gandhi choked off all regular channels for political organization. Unlike the other parties, Jan Sangh was quickly able to mobilize the nationwide network of RSS's "shakhas," or highly disciplined cadres, and take over the mantle of resistance. It temporarily suspended its ideology of "Hindutva," or Hindu nationalism, to make common cause with what it dubbed the "second struggle for independence." It played an important role in producing and disseminating underground literature chronicling Gandhi's excesses, publishing speeches by her opponents and reaching out to families of arrested dissidents.

The upshot was that once the emergency was lifted and elections called, Jan Sangh declared itself the savior of Indian democracy -- a boast that its successors like the Bharatiya Janata Party still make -- and won a prominent place in the coalition of secular parties that ultimately defeated Gandhi. This alliance collapsed in less than two years, thanks in no small part to Jan Sangh's sectarian demands. Nevertheless, as New York University Professor Arvind Rajagopal has noted, this brief stint in power proved an invaluable launching pad for the group's virulent ideology and did lasting damage to the country's commitment to secularism.

Indeed, although Gandhi, like her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, was an ardent secularist, after she returned to power she assiduously tried to build her Hindu bona fides, even accepting an invitation by a Hindu fundamentalist group to inaugurate the Ganga Jal Yatra, an annual event under which Hindus gather in a show of unity and collectively march to the mountains to get water from the holy Ganges river. Gandhi's gesture was significant because it legitimized the use of Hindu symbolism for political mobilization, something that subsequently produced immense tensions and ugly confrontations among Hindus and Muslims.

* * *
A similar political mainstreaming of radical Islamist groups might occur in Pakistan if Mr. Musharraf is allowed to prolong his power grab. In fact, the situation could be worse, given that, unlike India, Pakistan has never been a secular country and Islamists have always exerted considerable behind-the-scenes influence on government. They have infiltrated the Pakistani intelligence services and are well represented in the ranks of the civil bureaucracy. And there has always been close cooperation between Pakistan's generals and mullahs because of their common interest in cultivating Pakistan's Islamic identity and playing up the threat that Hindu India poses to it. The one government institution where Islamists have only a minority presence is the Pakistani Parliament.

But that might change if Mr. Musharraf continues to postpone elections and crush political opponents. Under such circumstances, Jammat-e-Islami (JI), Pakistan's oldest religious party with ties to the Taliban -- and an organization that harbors a long-standing desire to impose Shariah, or Islamic law, on the country -- and its sister organizations might well become useful to secular parties such as former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party. JI and its cohorts command even bigger powers of mobilization than Jan Sangh did during India's emergency. They run madrassas, or religious schools, publish newspapers and have sizeable cadres that can be quickly deployed for street protests. These resources might prove vitally important in resisting Mr. Musharraf.

"Instead of the secular and religious parties working against each other, they will start working together," fears Prof. Hasan-Askari Rizvi of Punjab University in Lahore. Indeed, the Associated Press has already reported that Ms. Bhutto is inviting the Islamist parties, many of whose members too have been thrown in jail, to "join hands" with her. All of this will allow the Islamists to mask their real agenda and piggyback on a popular cause to win more representation in parliament when elections are held. Even if secularists like Ms. Bhutto prevail in these elections eventually, it will be much harder for them to resist Islamist demands if they are beholden to them for beating back the emergency. In effect, the Islamist reach will not only gain in depth -- but legitimacy as well.

* * *
If Mr. Musharraf were prodded to call off the emergency and honor his commitment to hold genuinely free and transparent elections in early January, would that lead to an Islamist victory, or at least significant gains, as the Bush administration fears? Not at all.

Islamist parties had their best showing in the 2002 general elections, when they secured 11.1% of the vote and 53 out of 272 parliamentary seats -- a major gain over the pathetic three seats they won a decade before. But this gain was less serious than it seems. Most of the additional seats came not from Pakistan proper, but a few border provinces in the West that were experiencing a resurgence of anti-Americanism given their deep cross-border ties with the Taliban in Afghanistan. More crucially, however, Mr. Musharraf banned Ms. Bhutto and leaders of other secular parties from running, making it hard for these parties to secure a decent voter turnout. If free and fair elections were to be held today, Prof. Rizvi estimates secular parties would win handily, with the Islamists commanding no more than 5% of the national vote.

Islamist victory at the polls is not a real threat in Pakistan right now. The Bush administration should not allow that fear to deter it from applying maximum pressure on Mr. Musharraf to hold elections posthaste. The U.S. can, for instance, threaten to cut off Pakistan's supply of F-16 fighter jets and other nonterrorism-related aid.

India's example shows that even one vacation from democracy can be a huge setback for secularism. Yet another prolonged suspension of democracy will leave Pakistan few resources to beat back its Islamists. This is one instance where the Bush administration's avowed commitment to democracy is not just the more principled -- but also the more practical -- way of countering the threat of Islamic extremists.

Ms. Dalmia is a senior analyst at Reason Foundation, a Los Angeles-based think tank.

25989  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Health Cost Myth on: November 13, 2007, 06:20:02 AM
The Health Cost Myth
By JOHN R. GRAHAM
November 13, 2007; Page A25

'As major employers, we are engaging in one of the most crucial domestic policy debates of our time -- fixing our nation's health-care crisis, reducing out of control costs, and ensuring every American has affordable health care," said CEO Steve Burd of Safeway, a supermarket chain, earlier this year.

He's not alone. Several American business leaders have come to believe that the American health-care system is not only bad for our health but also for national competitiveness. In the automotive industry, General Motors claims that it spends about $1,600 per car on health care. In Japan, according to GM, Toyota's per automobile healthcare expenditure is just $110.

Some politicians and executives have concluded that the "solution" to this problem is universal, government-run health care. They must be onto something, right?

Health coverage is indeed becoming more expensive for businesses. Over the past eight years, the percentage of firms offering health benefits to employees has dropped significantly, to 60% from 69%.

This decline, however, is almost completely accounted for by businesses with fewer than 10 employees.

These firms find health benefits unaffordable because states have laid a massive burden of over-regulation on small-group health insurance since the early 1990s, making it increasingly expensive. In the face of this, the freedom to contract employment without health benefits provides a valuable option for American entrepreneurs and workers. Only in the U.S. can they opt out of the government-regulated health "system," if it allows them to be more competitive.

But what about the share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spent on health care, a metric of health system performance and value that some consider definitive? The United States leads the pack in this regard, spending far more on health than other countries. Surely this puts the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage, doesn't it?

No: It's the other way around. America's high productivity gives us the ability to spend more on health care, especially the latest treatments and technologies, than other developed nations that labor under forms of socialized health care.

Robert L. Ohsfeldt and John R. Schneider of the American Enterprise Institute have determined that health spending increases at a constant rate of about 8% for every $1,000 increase in GDP per capita. For example, if GDP rises from $30,000 per capita to $31,000, health spending increases by $232. But if GDP per capita rises from $40,000 to $41,000, health spending increases by $500.

Thus, because Americans earn so much more than people in other countries, it naturally follows that we spend more on health care.

Consider four countries whose health-care systems are often held up as admirable alternatives: Canada, Germany, France and Great Britain. Certainly, the U.S. spends significantly more on health care than those countries do, but these nations also earn significantly less income per person.

Look at it this way: Even after paying for our health care, Americans have far more money left over than their neighbors to spend on other goods and services. It works out to about $8,000 more than the average German or Frenchman, and about $4,000 more than the average Canadian or Briton.

Of course, averages obscure many harsh realities and hide the fact that many Americans are unable to afford health care.

To improve the state of American health care and lighten the burden on business and workers, policy leaders should push for portability of health benefits, transparent pricing for health services, tort reform and more competition among both insurers and providers.

Crusaders for "universal" health care allege that America's unique lack of government-mandated coverage is a handicap to the nation's competitiveness. Given America's superior economic performance, however, it is a uniqueness we should not rush to abandon.

Mr. Graham is the director of health care studies at the Pacific Research Institute.
WSJ
25990  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pakistan on: November 13, 2007, 06:16:42 AM
Being Pervez Musharraf
What's it like to be Pakistan's ruler?

BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, November 13, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Imagine yourself as Pervez Musharraf, the 64-year-old military ruler of Pakistan. As a young artillery officer, and later as a commando, you acquired a reputation for personal bravery--and for doing just as you pleased, whatever your orders. Your subsequent performance as a general and politician has been of a similar piece. In recent days, you have declared a state of emergency, imprisoned thousands of lawyers and civil society types, fired the Supreme Court and put its chief justice under house arrest, and shut down much of the independent media. You have done all this to keep your grip on power, all the while insisting you have "no personal ego and ambitions to guard."

Abroad, the conventional wisdom is that you have shredded what little legitimacy you had and that your days, politically or otherwise, are numbered. You think they're wrong. You're probably right.

No doubt you are sensitive to the appearance of hypocrisy. In your self-applauding autobiography, "In the Line of Fire," you wrote about former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto as follows: "He threw many of his opponents, including editors, journalists and even cartoonists, into prison. He was really a fascist--using the most progressive rhetoric to promote regressive ends, the first of which was to stay in power forever." Of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, you recalled how he "got his party goons to storm the Supreme Court building while the court was in session. . . . This was, to put it mildly, a very low point in Pakistani political history." Concerning the efficacy of martial law, you said that "our past experience had amply demonstrated that martial law damages not only military but also civilian institutions."

The way you see it, however, there's just no comparing you to Pakistan's past leaders. The elder Bhutto, his daughter Benazir, and Mr. Sharif were a trio of political mesmerists--aristocrats posing as populists--who enriched themselves and their friends to the tune of billions as they bankrupted the country. You are a refugee from partition, a man for whom Pakistan is a sanctuary that must be preserved at all cost. You have raised your family on a soldier's wages. Nobody can accuse you of being a thief.





Besides, who in his right mind would want to return to the days of Mr. Sharif or the Bhuttos? When you took over in 1999, the country was $30 billion in debt and its credit rating was among the world's worst. Since then, the number of cell phone subscribers is up 100%, the number of air conditioners sold is up 200%, the stock market is up 800%, foreign direct investment is up more than tenfold and the economy has averaged 7% annual growth over five years. Did the shambolic democracy of years past ever register these kinds of figures?
That's one reason why you are confident you can ride out this storm, just as you have so many others. The intellectuals, the leftists, the human-rights activists and the lawyers--lawyers!--may be against you, but the worst they can do is write nasty op-eds in the pages of the Western press. That may be a stain on your vanity, but it is not a threat to your regime.

By contrast, the merchant classes, political allies from the beginning, remain your great beneficiaries and would be the last to cheer your ouster. As for the poor, they will do nothing to risk their livelihoods for the sake of politics. Come to think of it, that's another excellent reason to enforce the state of emergency well past the next election.

Then there is Ms. Bhutto, whose political smarts don't quite match her rhetorical gifts. She did you a favor earlier this year when she all but agreed to rule in condominium with you in exchange for having her corruption charges dropped. But she was under the mistaken impression that you needed her "democratic legitimacy" every bit as much as she craved a return to power. You've rubbished that assumption. Maybe now she'll understand the favor you have done her by keeping her under house arrest, thereby preserving the pretense of her political oppositionism.

As for the military, you've had eight years to make sure your lieutenants are loyal. Not only do they see you as one of their own, they also see you as the man who will keep the money coming from Washington. And the money will keep coming. The ostensible purpose of President Bush's phone call last week may have been to insist that you hold elections and relinquish your uniform, and you're probably prepared to meet him halfway. But the subtext of the call is that the two of you remain on speaking terms. Had it been otherwise, the consequences could have been devastating to you. For now, though, you're still the one.





What worries you? The business about the uniform, for starters. You are old enough to remember 1958, when a former general turned civilian president named Iskander Mirza dissolved the government, declared martial law and put Ayub Khan, the army chief of staff, in charge. Bad move: Khan exiled Mirza to London in three weeks flat.
You also can't be sure the street violence won't spiral out of control. You have gone out of your way to treat the detained lawyers gingerly, by local standards. What if they don't get the message and return to the streets, unchastened and emboldened? What if there is some kind of "event" that galvanizes the protestors? Most of your army is Punjabi: Could they be counted on to crack the heads of fellow Punjabis in Lahore, if it came to that?

There's also this pesky matter of increasingly assertive Islamist militants in the North-West Frontier Province, who have repeatedly humiliated the army in recent confrontations. Your motives for declaring an emergency have been so transparently self-serving that it's easy to forget there really is a terrorist threat to the country. It may soon dawn on you that your assault on civil liberties has only ripened the conditions in which terrorists thrive.

Fortunately for you, the first two scenarios aren't likely to come to pass, and the third you'll somehow handle. Your support, both at home and abroad, may never again be what it was, but the absence of support does not necessarily mean active opposition. In your case it will probably mean reluctant acquiescence to the facts you lay on the ground. Were you a democrat, you might feel ashamed to carry on ruling that way. Soldier that you are, it won't make you lose much sleep.

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.

25991  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: November 13, 2007, 06:05:18 AM
"Nothing...is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights
of man."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to John Cartwright, 1824)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Lipscomb and Bergh,
eds., 16:48.
25992  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Swarming on: November 13, 2007, 05:55:17 AM
If you have ever observed ants marching in and out of a nest, you might have been reminded of a highway buzzing with traffic. To Iain D. Couzin, such a comparison is a cruel insult — to the ants.

Christian Ziegler/Agentur Focus
Army ants in Panama.
Americans spend a 3.7 billion hours a year in congested traffic. But you will never see ants stuck in gridlock.

Army ants, which Dr. Couzin has spent much time observing in Panama, are particularly good at moving in swarms. If they have to travel over a depression in the ground, they erect bridges so that they can proceed as quickly as possible.

“They build the bridges with their living bodies,” said Dr. Couzin, a mathematical biologist at Princeton University and the University of Oxford. “They build them up if they’re required, and they dissolve if they’re not being used.”

The reason may be that the ants have had a lot more time to adapt to living in big groups. “We haven’t evolved in the societies we currently live in,” Dr. Couzin said.

By studying army ants — as well as birds, fish, locusts and other swarming animals — Dr. Couzin and his colleagues are starting to discover simple rules that allow swarms to work so well. Those rules allow thousands of relatively simple animals to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism.

Deciphering those rules is a big challenge, however, because the behavior of swarms emerges unpredictably from the actions of thousands or millions of individuals.

“No matter how much you look at an individual army ant,” Dr. Couzin said, “you will never get a sense that when you put 1.5 million of them together, they form these bridges and columns. You just cannot know that.”

To get a sense of swarms, Dr. Couzin builds computer models of virtual swarms. Each model contains thousands of individual agents, which he can program to follow a few simple rules. To decide what those rules ought to be, he and his colleagues head out to jungles, deserts or oceans to observe animals in action.

Daniel Grunbaum, a mathematical biologist at the University of Washington, said his field was suddenly making leaps forward, as math and observation of nature were joined in the work of Dr. Couzin and others. “In the next 10 years there’s going to be a lot of progress.”

He said Dr. Couzin has been important in fusing the different kinds of science required to understand animal group behavior. “He’s been a real leader in bringing a lot of ideas together,” Dr. Grunbaum said. “He has a larger vision. If it works, that’ll be a big advance.”

In the case of army ants, Dr. Couzin was intrigued by their highways. Army ants returning to their nest with food travel in a dense column. This incoming lane is flanked by two lanes of outgoing traffic. A three-lane highway of army ants can stretch for as far as 150 yards from the ant nest, comprising hundreds of thousands of insects.

What Dr. Couzin wanted to know was why army ants do not move to and from their colony in a mad, disorganized scramble. To find out, he built a computer model based on some basic ant biology. Each simulated ant laid down a chemical marker that attracted other ants while the marker was still fresh. Each ant could also sweep the air with its antennas; if it made contact with another ant, it turned away and slowed down to avoid a collision.

Dr. Couzin analyzed how the ants behaved when he tweaked their behavior. If the ants turned away too quickly from oncoming insects, they lost the scent of their trail. If they did not turn fast enough, they ground to a halt and forced ants behind them to slow down. Dr. Couzin found that a narrow range of behavior allowed ants to move as a group as quickly as possible.

It turned out that these optimal ants also spontaneously formed highways. If the ants going in one direction happened to become dense, their chemical trails attracted more ants headed the same way. This feedback caused the ants to form a single packed column. The ants going the other direction turned away from the oncoming traffic and formed flanking lanes.

To test this model, Dr. Couzin and Nigel Franks, an ant expert at the University of Bristol in England, filmed a trail of army ants in Panama. Back in England, they went through the film frame by frame, analyzing the movements of 226 ants. “Everything in the ant world is happening at such a high tempo it was very difficult to see,” Dr. Couzin said.
===================

Page 2 of 3)



Eventually they found that the real ants were moving in the way that Dr. Couzin had predicted would allow the entire swarm to go as fast as possible. They also found that the ants behaved differently if they were leaving the nest or heading back. When two ants encountered each other, the outgoing ant turned away further than the incoming one. As a result, the ants headed to the nest end up clustered in a central lane, while the outgoing ants form two outer lanes. Dr. Couzin has been extending his model for ants to other animals that move in giant crowds, like fish and birds. And instead of tracking individual animals himself, he has developed programs to let computers do the work.

The more Dr. Couzin studies swarm behavior, the more patterns he finds common to many different species. He is reminded of the laws of physics that govern liquids. “You look at liquid metal and at water, and you can see they’re both liquids,” he said. “They have fundamental characteristics in common. That’s what I was finding with the animal groups — there were fundamental states they could exist in.”

Just as liquid water can suddenly begin to boil, animal swarms can also change abruptly thanks to some simple rules.

Dr. Couzin has discovered some of those rules in the ways that locusts begin to form their devastating swarms. The insects typically crawl around on their own, but sometimes young locusts come together in huge bands that march across the land, devouring everything in their path. After developing wings, they rise into the air as giant clouds made of millions of insects.

“Locusts are known to be around all the time,” Dr. Couzin said. “Why does the situation suddenly get out of control, and these locusts swarm together and devastate crops?”

Dr. Couzin traveled to remote areas of Mauritania in Africa to study the behavior of locust swarms. Back at Oxford, he and his colleagues built a circular track on which locusts could walk. “We could track the motion of all these individuals five times a second for eight hours a day,” he said.

The scientists found that when the density of locusts rose beyond a threshold, the insects suddenly began to move together. Each locust always tried to align its own movements with any neighbor. When the locusts were widely spaced, however, this rule did not have much effect on them. Only when they had enough neighbors did they spontaneously form huge bands.

“We showed that you don’t need to know lots of information about individuals to predict how the group will behave,” Dr. Couzin said of the locust findings, which were published June 2006 in Science.

Understanding how animals swarm and why they do are two separate questions, however.

In some species, animals may swarm so that the entire group enjoys an evolutionary benefit. All the army ants in a colony, for example, belong to the same family. So if individuals cooperate, their shared genes associated with swarming will become more common.

But in the deserts of Utah, Dr. Couzin and his colleagues discovered that giant swarms may actually be made up of a lot of selfish individuals.

Mormon crickets will sometimes gather by the millions and crawl in bands stretching more than five miles long. Dr. Couzin and his colleagues ran experiments to find out what caused them to form bands. They found that the forces behind cricket swarms are very different from the ones that bring locusts together. When Mormon crickets cannot find enough salt and protein, they become cannibals.

“Each cricket itself is a perfectly balanced source of nutrition,” Dr. Couzin said. “So the crickets, every 17 seconds or so, try to attack other individuals. If you don’t move, you’re likely to be eaten.”

This collective movement causes the crickets to form vast swarms. “All these crickets are on a forced march,” Dr. Couzin said. “They’re trying to attack the crickets who are ahead, and they’re trying to avoid being eaten from behind.”

Swarms, regardless of the forces that bring them together, have a remarkable ability to act like a collective mind. A swarm navigates as a unit, making decisions about where to go and how to escape predators together.

“There’s a swarm intelligence,” Dr. Couzin said. “You can see how people thought there was some sort of telekinesis involved.”

===========

What makes this collective decision-making all the more puzzling is that each individual can behave only based on its own experience. If a shark lunges into a school of fish, only some of them will see it coming. If a flock of birds is migrating, only a few experienced individuals may know the route.

Modeling Ant Behavior Dr. Couzin and his colleagues have built a model of the flow of information through swarms. Each individual has to balance two instincts: to stay with the group and to move in a desired direction. The scientists found that just a few leaders can guide a swarm effectively. They do not even need to send any special signals to the animals around them. They create a bias in the swarm’s movement that steers it in a particular direction.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean you have the right information, though,” Dr. Couzin pointed out.

Two leaders may try to pull a swarm in opposite directions, and yet the swarm holds together. In Dr. Couzin’s model, the swarm was able to decide which leaders to follow.

“As we increased the difference of opinion between the informed individuals, the group would spontaneously come to a consensus and move in the direction chosen by the majority,” Dr. Couzin said. “They can make these decisions without mathematics, without even recognizing each other or knowing that a decision has been made.”

Dr. Couzin and his colleagues have been finding support for this model in real groups of animals. They have even found support in studies on mediocre swarmers — humans.

To study humans, Dr. Couzin teamed up with researchers at the University of Leeds. They recruited eight people at a time to play a game. Players stood in the middle of a circle, and along the edge of the circle were 16 cards, each labeled with a number. The scientists handed each person a slip of paper and instructed the players to follow the instructions printed on it while not saying anything to the others. Those rules correspond to the ones in Dr. Couzin’s models. And just as in his models, each person had no idea what the others had been instructed to do.

In one version of the experiment, each person was instructed simply to stay with the group. As Dr. Couzin’s model predicted, they tended to circle around in a doughnut-shaped flock. In another version, one person was instructed to head for a particular card at the edge of the circle without leaving the group. The players quickly formed little swarms with their leader at the head, moving together to the target.

The scientists then sowed discord by telling two or more people to move to opposite sides of the circle. The other people had to try to stay with the group even as leaders tried to pull it apart.

As Dr. Couzin’s model predicted, the human swarm made a quick, unconscious decision about which way to go. People tended to follow the largest group of leaders, even if it contained only one additional person.

Dr. Couzin and his colleagues describe the results of these experiments in a paper to be published in the journal Animal Behavior.

Dr. Couzin is carrying the lessons he has learned from animals to other kinds of swarms. He is helping Dr. Naomi Leonard, a Princeton engineer, to program swarming into robots.

“These things are beginning to move around and interact in ways we see in nature,” he said. Ultimately, flocks of robots might do a better job of collecting information in dangerous places. “If you knock out some individual, the algorithm still works. The group still moves normally.” The rules of the swarm may also apply to the cells inside our bodies. Dr. Couzin is working with cancer biologists to discover the rules by which cancer cells work together to build tumors or migrate through tissues. Even brain cells may follow the same rules for collective behavior seen in locusts or fish.

“One of the really fun things that we’re doing now is understanding how the type of feedbacks in these groups is like the ones in the brain that allows humans to make decisions,” Dr. Couzin said. Those decisions are not just about what to order for lunch, but about basic perception — making sense, for example, of the flood of signals coming from the eyes. “How does your brain take this information and come to a collective decision about what you’re seeing?” Dr. Couzin said. The answer, he suspects, may lie in our inner swarm.

NY Times


25993  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: November 13, 2007, 04:21:16 AM
The uninvited guest: Chinese sub pops up in middle of U.S. Navy exercise, leaving military chiefs red-faced

The forum where I found this had one poster say that this happend last year.  If so, I missed it at that time.
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By MATTHEW HICKLEY - More by this author » Last updated at 00:13am on 10th November 2007


When the U.S. Navy deploys a battle fleet on exercises, it takes the security of its aircraft carriers very seriously indeed.

At least a dozen warships provide a physical guard while the technical wizardry of the world's only military superpower offers an invisible shield to detect and deter any intruders.

That is the theory. Or, rather, was the theory.

American military chiefs have been left dumbstruck by an undetected Chinese submarine popping up at the heart of a recent Pacific exercise and close to the vast U.S.S. Kitty Hawk - a 1,000ft supercarrier with 4,500 personnel on board.

By the time it surfaced the 160ft Song Class diesel-electric attack submarine is understood to have sailed within viable range for launching torpedoes or missiles at the carrier.

According to senior Nato officials the incident caused consternation in the U.S. Navy.

The Americans had no idea China's fast-growing submarine fleet had reached such a level of sophistication, or that it posed such a threat.

One Nato figure said the effect was "as big a shock as the Russians launching Sputnik" - a reference to the Soviet Union's first orbiting satellite in 1957 which marked the start of the space age.

The incident, which took place in the ocean between southern Japan and Taiwan, is a major embarrassment for the Pentagon.

The lone Chinese vessel slipped past at least a dozen other American warships which were supposed to protect the carrier from hostile aircraft or submarines.

And the rest of the costly defensive screen, which usually includes at least two U.S. submarines, was also apparently unable to detect it.

According to the Nato source, the encounter has forced a serious re-think of American and Nato naval strategy as commanders reconsider the level of threat from potentially hostile Chinese submarines.

It also led to tense diplomatic exchanges, with shaken American diplomats demanding to know why the submarine was "shadowing" the U.S. fleet while Beijing pleaded ignorance and dismissed the affair as coincidence.

Analysts believe Beijing was sending a message to America and the West demonstrating its rapidly-growing military capability to threaten foreign powers which try to interfere in its "backyard".

The People's Liberation Army Navy's submarine fleet includes at least two nuclear-missile launching vessels.

Its 13 Song Class submarines are extremely quiet and difficult to detect when running on electric motors.

Commodore Stephen Saunders, editor of Jane's Fighting Ships, and a former Royal Navy anti-submarine specialist, said the U.S. had paid relatively little attention to this form of warfare since the end of the Cold War.

He said: "It was certainly a wake-up call for the Americans.

"It would tie in with what we see the Chinese trying to do, which appears to be to deter the Americans from interfering or operating in their backyard, particularly in relation to Taiwan."

In January China carried a successful missile test, shooting down a satellite in orbit for the first time.
25994  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Psychology: Evolutionary and otherwise on: November 12, 2007, 10:08:04 PM
Darley and Batson designed an experiment aimed at uncovering which of these differences might be most relevant to explaining the differences in behavior. Subjects in this experiment were students at Princeton Theological Seminary. As each subject arrived, he was informed that he was to give a talk that would be recorded in another building. Along the way to the place for the talk, the subject encountered a "victim" slumped in a doorway. The question was under what conditions would a subject would stop to help the victim.

Half of the subjects were assigned to talk on the Good Samaritan Parable; the others were assigned a different topic. Some of the subjects were told they were late and should hurry; some were told they had just enough time to get to the recording room; and some were told they would arrive early. Judging by their responses to a questionnaire, they had different religious and moral orientations.

The only one of these variables that made a difference was how much of a hurry the subjects were in. 63% of subjects that were in no hurry stopped to help, 45% of those in a moderate hurry stopped, and 10% of those that were in a great hurry stopped. It made no difference whether the students were assigned to talk on the Good Samaritan Parable, nor did it matter what their religious outlook was.

Standard interpretations of the Good Samaritan Parable commit the fundamental attribution error of overlooking the situational factors, in this case overlooking how much of a hurry the various agents might be in.

1 6 Direct Empirical Challenges to Character Traits

But don't we know from ordinary experience that people differ in character traits? Here it is useful to consider related issues.

Psychoanalysts acquire a considerable experience in treating patients and can cite many instances in which psychoanalytic treatment is successful. However, emprical studies of psychoanalytic treatment as compared with no treatment have found no objective benefit. (Dawes, 1994)

Some diagnosticians have used Rorschach inkblot tests to make psychological diagnoses. It seemed to those using these tests that they had abundant evidence that certain characteristics of the test results were diagnostic of certain disorders. Empirical studies showed there was no correlation between those characteristics and the test results. (Nisbett & Ross, 1980, pp. 93-97)

Many employers are convinced that useful information can be gained from interviewing potential employees. However, for the most part, interviews simply add noise to the decision process. Empirical studies indicate that decisions made on information available apart from an interview are more reliable than decisions made when an interview is added. (Ross & Nisbett, 1991, pp. 136-138)

Discovery of such errors in reasoning has encouraged research into why people are subject to such errors (Tversky & Kahneman, 1974, Nisbett & Ross, 1980). One suggested reason is confirmation bias. Given a hypothesis, one tends to look for confirming evidence. Finding such evidence, one takes it to support the hypothesis. Evidence against the hypothesis tends to be ignored or downplayed.

Ross & Nisbett suggest that the initial source of the fundamental attribution error may have to do with Gestalt considerations of figure and ground. Where we distinguish figure from ground, we pay more attention to figure and less to ground and we try to explain what happens in terms of features of the figure rather than in terms of features of the ground. Typically the actor is figure and the situation is ground, so we seek an explanation of the action in features of the actor in the foreground rather than in features of the background situation. The suggested explanation is then subject to confirmation bias. Additional support comes from the fact that other people give explanations in terms of dispositional features of agents rather than in terms of aspects of their situations.

When investigators have looked for objective evidence that people differ in character traits, the results have been much as with psychoanalysis, Rorschach tests, and interviews. People take themselves to have lots of evidence that agents differ in character traits. Yet empirical studies have not found any objective basis for this confidence. Summarizing a number of studies, Ross & Nisbett (1991, p. 95) report that the "average correlation between different behavioral measures designed to tap the same personality trait (for examples, impulsivity, honesty, dependency, or the like) was typically in the range between .10 and .20, and often was even lower." These are very low correlations, below the level which people can detect. Using such correlations to make predictions yields hardly any improvement over guessing. Even if predictions are limited to people one takes to be quite high on a particular trait, the correlations are still very low.

Ross & Nisbett observe that people have some appreciation of the role of situation in the way they understand such stories as The Prince and the Pauper or the movie Trading Places. But for the most part, people are quick to infer from specific actions to character traits.

It is true that there are better correlations for very specific situations. "Hartshorne and May (1928) found that the tendency to copy from an answer key on a general information test on one occasion was correlated .79 with copying from an answer key on a similar test six months later. Newcomb (1929) found that talkativeness at lunch was a highly stable attribute; it just was not very highly correlated with talkativeness on other occasions..." (Ross & Nisbett, 1991, p. 101).

Surprisingly, Flanagan (1991) argues that this shows there really are character traits, "albeit not traits of unrestricted globality or totally context- independent ones." I guess he means such character traits as "being disposed to copy from an answer key on a certain sort of test" and "being talkative at lunch." But, first, no reason has been given for thinking that these specific narrow regularities in behavior reflect dispositions or habits rather than, for example, skills or strategies that have worked in the past. Second, and more importantly for our purposes, ordinary thinking about personality and character attributes is concerned with more global traits like honesty and talkativeness.

Flanagan concludes: "Yes, there are character traits. The language of character traits picks out psychologically real phenomena." But I do not see that he has cited any empirical evidence for this claim.

Flanagan also seems to think that it inconsistent to argue against character traits by appeal to the fundamental attribution error. He says, "It is telling against the situationalist who is also an eliminativist that he will have extreme difficulty (indeed he courts inconsistency) in positing attributional biases of any sort if by these he means to refer to what he must be taken to want to refer to, namely, dispositions to think in certain ways" (305). But this is true only if a "situationalist" is someone who denies that there are any dispositions at all, or who (perhaps like Skinner, 1974) denies that it is useful to explain anything in terms of dispositions. The issue we have been concerned with is whether people differ in certain particular dispositions--character traits. To deny that people differ significantly in character traits is not to deny that they have any dispositions at all. People might well all share certain dispositions, such as a disposition to make the fundamental attribution error. Secondly, they might differ in various dispositions that do not constitute character traits, such as personality disorders and other mental illnesses. (So, for example, to deny that there are character traits is not to accept the view in Laing,1960, that schizophrenia is simply a rational response to a difficult family situation.)

7 Benefits of Appreciating the Fundamental Attribution Error

There are various benefits to a proper appreciation of ways in which ordinary moral thinking rest on the fundamental attribution error.

1 7.1 Philosophy

7.1.1 Virtue ethics

Character based virtue ethics may offer a reasonable account of ordinary moral views. But to that extent, these ordinary views rest on error.

It is worth mentioning that there are variants of virtue ethics that do not require character traits in the ordinary sense. For example, Thomson (1996) tries to explicate moral thinking by appeal to judgments about whether particular actions are just or courageous or whatever. To the extent that such judgments are concerned entirely with the action and not with any presumed underlying trait of character, Thomson's enterprise is unaffected by my discussion.

Maria Merritt (forthcoming) has been developing a version of virtue ethics that emphasizes the role of the situation in maintaining relevant regularities in behavior.

7.1.2 Better understanding of Moral luck.

Adam Smith (1759) wrote about the influence of fortune on our moral judgments, giving nice examples. Someone carelessly throws a brick over a wall. His companion may complain about this even if no harm is done. But if the brick does hit someone, much greater condemnation ensues. Nagel (1979) gives a similar example of a driver who takes his eyes off the road for a second. That's bad, but suppose in that second a child darts into the street and is hit. Then much worse condemnation seems appropriate.

Smith and Nagel note that from a certain point of view, our moral judgment of the act should be based entirely on the motives of the agent and the agent's epistemic situation, so that from that point of view there should be no difference between two cases that are the same in those respects in one of which someone is hit by the brick (or car) and in the other of which no one is hit. Yet, it is clear that we will judge the cases differently.

Perhaps these are simply further instances of the fundamental attribution error. This bad thing has happened and we attribute it to the bad character of the agent in the foreground.

1 7.2 Real Life7.2.1 Moral Education

If there is no such thing as character, then there is no such thing as character building.

7.2.2 Tolerance

When things go wrong, we typically blame the agent, attributing the bad results to the agent's bad character. Even when things do not go bad, we are quick to interpret actions as expressive of character traits, often hostile traits. For example, a person with poor vision may fail to recognize an acquaintance, who then attributes this to coldness in that person.

A greater understanding of the agent's situation and how it contributed to the action can lead to a greater tolerance and understanding of others.

7.2.3 Better understanding of ethnic hatred

Recent terrible events in the former Yugoslavia are often attributed to historical "ethnic hatreds". Yet it is possible to explain these events in rational terms (Hardin, 1995). Suppose there are limited resources and a successful coalition will benefit its members more than those excluded from the coalition. Such a coalition is possible only if insiders can be distinguished from excluded outsiders and only if it is possible to keep members from defecting to other groups. Coalitions formed around ethnic or religious lines might succeed. The threat that one such coalition may form can lead other groups to form competing coalitions and to struggle against each other. If stakes are high enough, such struggles can become violent. If we attribute the resulting violence to ethnic hatred, we may very well doubt that there is anything we can do. If we understand the way the violence arises from the situation, we may see more opportunities to end the conflict.

1 8 Summary

We very confidently attribute character traits to other people in order to explain their behavior. But our attributions tend to be wildly incorrect and, in fact, there is no evidence that people differ in character traits. They differ in their situations and in their perceptions of their situations. They differ in their goals, strategies, neuoses, optimism, etc. But character traits do not explain what differences there are.

Our ordinary views about character traits can be explained without supposing that there are such traits. In trying to explain why someone has acted in a certain way, we concentrate on the figure and ignore the ground. We look at the agent and ignore the situation. We are naive in our understanding of the way others view a given situation. We suffer from a confirmation bias that leads us to ignore evidence against our attributions of character.

It is very hard to do studies that might indicate whether or not people differ in character traits, but the few studies that have been done do not support this idea. We must conclude that, despite appearances, there is no empirical support for the existence of character traits.

Furthermore, it is clear that ordinary thinking about character traits has deplorable results, leading to massive understanding of other people, promoting unnecessary hostility between individuals and groups, distorting discussions of law and public policy, and preventing the implementation of situational changes that could have useful results.

Bibliography

Aristotle, (1985). Nicomachean Ethics, translated by T. Irwin. Indianapolis, Indiana: Hackett.

Bennett, W. J. (1993). The Book of Virtues. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Brandt, R. B. (1988). "The structure of virtue." Midwest Studies in Philosophy XIII, pp. 64-82.

Darley, J. M., & Batson, C. D. (1973). "`From Jerusalem to Jericho': A Study of Situational and Dispositional Variables in Helping Behavior," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 27.

Dawes, R. M. (1994). House of Cards. New York: Free Press.

Doris, J. M. (forthcoming). People Like Us: Personality and Moral Behavior. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Fischer, J. M., & Ravizza, M., editors, (1992). Ethics: Problems and Principles. Fort Worth: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

Flanagan, O. (1991). Varieties of Moral Personality. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Hardin, R. (1995). One for All: The Logic of Group Conflict. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Harman, G. (1983). "Human flourishing, ethics, and liberty," Philosophy and Public Affairs 12, pp. 307-322.

Harman, G. (1996). "Moral relativism," part I of Harman & Thomson, 1996.

Harman, G. (forthcoming). "Moral philosophy and linguistics," Proceedings of the 20th World Congress of Philosophy (Philosophy Documentation Center).

Harman, G., & Thomson, J. J. (1996). Moral Relativism and Moral Objectivity. Oxford: Blackwell.

Hartshorne, H., & May, M. A. (1928). Studies in the Nature of Character, I: Studies in Deceit. New York: Macmillan.

Holland, J. H., Holyoak, K. Jl, Nisbett, R. E., & Thagard, P. R. (1986). Induction: Processes of inference, learning and discovery. Cambridge, MA: Bradford Books/M.I.T.

Hursthouse, R. (1996). "Normative virtue ethics." Crisp, R., How Should One Live? Essays on the Virtues. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 19-36

Kagan, S. (1989). The Limits of Morality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Laing, R. D. (1960). The Divided Self. Chicago: Quadrangle.

Lewin, K. (1935). Dynamic Theory of Personality. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Merritt, M. (forthcoming). "Virtue Ethics and the Social Psychology of Character," Ph. D. Dissertation, University of California, Berkeley.

Milgram, S. (1963). "Behavioral study of obedience." Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 67.

McCloskey, M. (1983). "Intuitive physics." Scientific American 248, pp. 122-130.

Nagel, T. (1979). "Moral luck." In Mortal Questions. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

Newcomb, T. M. (1929). The Consistency of Certain Extrovert-Introvert Behavior Patterns in 51 Problem Boys. New YOrk: Columbia University Teachers College Bureau of Publications.

Nisbett, R. E., & Ross, L. (1980). Human Inference: Strategies and Shortcomings of Social Judgment. Englewood-Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.

Railton, P. (1997). "Made in the Shade: Moral Compatibilism and the Aims of Moral Theory," Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume 21.

Ross, L. (1977). "The intuitive psychologist and his shortcomings." In L. Berkowitz (ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, Vol 10. New York: Academic Press.

Ross, L., & Nisbett, R. (1991). The Person and the Situation: Perspectives of Social Psychology. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Skinner, B. F. (1974). About Behaviorism.. New York: Knopf.

Smith, A. (1759). "Of the Influence of Fortune upon the Sentiments of Mankind, with regard to the Merit or Demerit of Actions." Theory of the Moral Sentiments, Part II, Section III.

Taylor, R. (1991). Virtue Ethics. Interlaken, New York: Linden Books.

Thomson, J. J. (1996). "Evaluatives and directives," chapter 8 of Harman & Thomson, 1996.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). "Judgment under uncertainty: heuristics and biases," Science 185: 1124-31.


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[1 "The relation between lay personology and a more correct theory of personality is analogous to the relation between lay and scientific physics," Ross and Nisbett (1991) pp. 161, citing earlier work including Lewin (1935).

2 An alternative view (Harman, forthcoming) is that children no more require moral instruction in order to acquire morality than they require instruction in their first language in order to acquire that language.

3 But see 7.1.1 below, where I mention two versions of "virtue ethics" that do not treat virtues as traits of character.
25995  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Psychology: Evolutionary and otherwise on: November 12, 2007, 10:06:50 PM
Not that I agree with everything in this piece, but a worthy read:

http://www.princeton.edu/~harman/Papers/Virtue.html


Moral Philosophy Meets Social Psychology
Virtue Ethics and the Fundamental Attribution Error
Gilbert Harman
Princeton University
1 1 Folk physics and folk morality

Ordinary untrained physical intuitions are often in error. For example, ordinary people expect that something dropped from a moving vehicle or airplane will fall straight down to the point on earth directly underneath the place from which it was released. In fact, the dropped object will fall in a parabolic arc in the direction of the movement of the vehicle or airplane from which it was dropped. This means, among other things, that bombardiers need to be trained to go against their own physical intuitions. There are many similar examples (McCloskey, 1983; Holland, Holyoak, Nisbett, & Thagard, 1986).

Considering the inadequacies of ordinary physical intuitions, it is natural to wonder whether ordinary moral intuitions might be similarly inadequate. And, while many moral philosophers seem to put great confidence at least in their own moral intuitions, others argue for revisions. Consequentialism may be put forward not as an attempt to capture intuitive folk morality but rather as a critique of ordinary intuitions (Kagan, 1989). Similarly, moral relativism might be defended as the truth about morality, whether or not moral relativism accords with everyone's intuitions (Harman, 1996).

On this occasion I discuss a different kind of rejection of folk morality, one that derives from contemporary social psychology. It seems that ordinary attributions of character traits to people are often deeply misguided and it may even be the case that there is no such thing as character, no ordinary character traits of the sort people think there are, none of the usual moral virtues and vices.

In attempting to characterize and explain the movements of a body, folk physics places too much emphasis on assumed internal characteristics of the body, ignoring external forces. Similarly, in trying to characterize and explain a distinctive action, ordinary thinking tends to hypothesize a corresponding distinctive characteristic of the agent and tends to overlook the relevant details of the agent's perceived situation.[1] Because of this tendency, folk social psychology and more specifically folk morality are subject to what Ross (1977) calls "the fundamental attribution error."

Empirical studies designed to test whether people behave differently in ways that might reflect their having different character traits have failed to find relevant differences. It is true that studies of this sort are very difficult to carry out and there have been very few such studies. Nevertheless, the existing studies have had negative results. Since it is possible to explain our ordinary belief in character traits as deriving from certain illusions, we must conclude that there is no empirical basis for the existence of character traits.

2 Character

Character traits must be distinguished from psychological disorders like schizophrenia, mania, and depression, and from innate aspects of temperament such as shyness or being basically a happy or sad person. Character traits include virtues and vices like courage, cowardice, honesty, dishonesty, benevolence, malevolence, friendliness, unfriendliness, as well as certain other traits like friendliness or talkativeness.

Aristotle (1985) describes the ordinary conception of such character traits. They are relatively long-term stable disposition to act in distinctive ways. An honest person is disposed to act honestly. A kind person is disposed to act kindly. The relevant dispositions must involve habits and not just skills, involving habits of desiring. To be sure, as we normally conceive of certain character traits or virtues, they may involve certain strengths or skills, as in courage or strength of will (Brandt, 1988). But they involve more than simply having relevant skills or know-how. A person with the relevant character trait has a long term stable disposition to use the relevant skills in the relevant way. Similarly, the virtue of benevolence may involve practical knowledge concerning how to benefit people; but mere possession of that knowledge with no disposition to use it to benefit people would be insufficient for possession of a benevolent character.

In ordinary conceptions of character traits and virtues, people differ in their possession of such traits and virtues. A particular character trait fits into one or more ranges of ways of behaving. In some cases, the relevant virtue can be seen as a mean between extremes (Aristotle, 1985). Courage is a mean between rashness and timidity, for example. Proper benevolence is a mean between stinginess and profligacy. Where some people have a given virtue, others have one or another corresponding vice. Different ways in which people behave on different occasions are sometimes due to their having such different character traits. Finding a wallet on the sidewalk, an honest person tries to locate the owner, whereas a dishonest person pockets the contents and throws the rest of the wallet away. How a stranger reacts to you would depends whether the stranger is basically friendly or unfriendly.

We ordinarily suppose that a person's character traits help to explain at least some things that the person does. The honest person tries to return the wallet because he or she is honest. The person who pockets the contents of the wallet and throws the rest of the wallet away does so because he or she is dishonest.

The fact that two people regularly behave in different ways does not establish that they have different character traits. The differences may be due to their different situations rather than differences in their characters. To have different character traits, they must be disposed to act differently in the same circumstances (as they perceive those circumstances).

Furthermore, character traits are broad based dispositions that help to explain what they are dispositions to do. Narrow dispositions do not count. If fifteen year old Herbert is disposed to refuse to ride any roller coaster, but is not cowardly or fearful in other ways, his particular disposition is not an instance of cowardice or fear and indeed may fail to be an instance of any character trait at all. If Herbert also acquires a disposition to refrain from speaking up in history class (but not in other subjects) and the explanation of this latter reluctance is quite different from the explanation of his avoidance of roller coaster rides, then these two dispositions are not special cases of a single character trait. Nor can cowardice or fearfulness be constructed out of a collection of quite separable dispositions of this sort, if there is no common explanation of the resulting behaviors.

3 Virtue Ethics

Some theorists suppose that proper moral development requires moral instruction in virtue.[2] In this view, moral instruction involves teaching relevant habits of action, perhaps habits of desire, in some cases also relevant skills. If a learner's dispositions fall more toward one of the extremes in one or another relevant range of behavior, moral educators should encourage the learner to aim more towards the opposite extreme until the right balance is achieved. It is occasionally remarked that one thing wrong with contemporary American society is that too little attention is being paid to this sort of character development (e.g., Bennett, 1993).

Some philosophers argue, further, that morality or perhaps the ordinary conception of morality is best analyzed by beginning with a conception of virtue and character and then explaining other aspects of morality in terms of them (Taylor, 1991; Hursthouse, 1996). In this view, we determine what a person ought morally to do in a particular situation by considering what a person of good character would do in that situation. An act is morally right to the extent that it is the result of the agent's good character and morally wrong to the extent that it is the result of the agent's bad character. Perhaps we can also say that a situation or state of affairs is morally good to the extent that it would be favored by a good person.

Some versions of virtue ethics connect virtues with human flourishing. In one version, a virtue is a character trait that contributes to the flourishing of the agent. In another version, the virtues are character traits that contribute to the flourishing of people in general. In either version, it is not easy to provide a noncircular account of human flourishing that leaves the resulting view sounding plausible (Harman, 1983).

The details of how virtue ethics might be developed are interesting, but I do not want to get into them on this occasion. For present purposes, the main point is that this sort of virtue ethics presupposes that there are character traits of the relevant sort, that people differ in what character traits they have, and these traits help to explain differences in the way people behave.[3]

4 Social Psychology

Philosophers have begun to notice that recent social psychology challenges ordinary and philosophical views about character traits. Flanagan (1991) discusses the challenge at length, arguing that it is not as radical as it may seem. Railton (1997) thinks the challenge is more serious, as does Doris (forthcoming) in an important book length study.

Let me begin my own account by emphasizing that the empirical results of contemporary social psychology can seem extremely counter-intuitive on first acquaintance. Students of mine who read parts of Nisbett and Ross' useful textbook (Nisbett & Ross, 1991) report that their parents express dismay at the "nonsense" they are being taught at Princeton.

Flanagan (1991), who is a philosophical pioneer in discussing the relevant social-psychological literature, does not seem to me fully to appreciate its radical import. He mentions what he calls the "extreme view," according to which "Good behavior is not the result of good character. It is the result of a certain kind of dominating environment. Take away the powerful external props, and what seems to be a consistently good character will evaporate into thin air." He continues, "Almost no one holds such an extreme view." However, contrary to this remark of Flanagan's, the "extreme view" is in fact widespread among social psychologists.

Nisbett and Ross (1991) report that "[t]he experience of serious graduate students, who, over the course of four or five years, are immersed in the problems and the orientation of the field [of social psychology], ... is an intellectually wrenching one. Their most basic assumptions about the nature and the causes of human behavior ... are challenged" (1).

At one point, Nisbett and Ross "seriously entertained the hypothesis that most of [the] seeming order [in ordinary human behavior] was a kind of cognitive illusion. We believed that human beings are adept at seeing things as they believe them to be, at explaining away contradictions and, in particular, at perceiving people as more consistent than they really are." Nisbett and Ross now think that there are at least regularities in human behavior and that lay personality may work in the sense of enabling people to manage in ordinary life, just as lay physics works for many ordinary situations. "That is, people often make correct predictions on the basis of erroneous beliefs and defective prediction strategies" (7-8).

n everyday experience the characteristics of actors and those of the situations they face are typically confounded--in ways that contribute to precisely the consistency that we perceive and count on in our social dealings. People often choose the situations to which they are exposed; and people often are chosen for situations on the basis of their manifest or presumed abilities and dispositions. Thus, clerics and criminals rarely face an identical or equivalent set of situational challenges. Rather they place themselves, and are placed by others, in situations that differ precisely in ways that induce clergy to look, act, feel, and think rather consistently like clergy and that induce criminals to look, act, feel, and think like criminals (19).

In addition, "individuals may behave in consistent ways that distinguish them from their peers not because of their enduring predispositions to be friendly, dependent, aggressive, or the like, but rather because they are pursuing consistent goals using consistent strategies, in the light of consistent ways of interpreting their social world" (20). And "people sometimes feel obliged, even committed to act consistently. This may be because of their social roles, because of the real- world incentives" etc. (19).

5 Two Experiments

Social psychologists have shown many different ways in which ordinary observers wrongly infer that actions are due to distinctive character traits of an agent rather than relevant aspects of the situation. Here I briefly review two well known experiments, one by Milgram and one by Darley and Batson.

5.1 Obedience to Authority

Milgram (1963) describes an experiment in which a subject was given the task of administering an increasingly intense electric shock to a second person, the "learner," whenever the learner gave the wrong answer. (Subjects were also told to treat a failure to answer answer as a wrong answer.) The shocks started at 15 volts and increased in 15 volt intervals to the highest level of 450 volts. The device used had labels at various points indicating "Slight Shock," "Moderate Shock, "Strong Shock," "Very Strong Shock," "Intense Shock," "Extreme Intensity Shock," "Danger: Severe Shock," and "XXX." At the 300 volt level the learner pounded loudly on the wall of the room but did not answer the question. This is repeated at the 315 volt level. At higher levels there was no further response from the learner.

Whenever the subject asked the experimenter for advice or the subject said he did not want to continue, the experimenter had a list of four things to say, which would be said only if needed and only in sequence: (1) "Please continue" or "Please go on." (2) "The experiment requires that you continue." (3) "It is absolutely essential that you continue." and (4) "You have no other choice, you must go on." If the subject persisted in asking to stop after being told these four things, he or she would then be excused.

The experiment was designed to test how far subjects would go in administering shock under these conditions. The experimenters had expected that few subjects would go beyond the designation "Very Strong Shock" (150 volts). But in fact, of the 40 subjects in one (typical) early experiment, all went past that point. Five stopped at the 300 volt level right before the label "Extremely Intense Shock" and the point at which the learner pounded on the wall. Four more stopped at the next stage, 315 volts, when the learner pounded the wall again. Two stopped at 330 volts, when the learner made no response at all. One stopped at 345 volts and another at 360 volts. The 26 remaining subjects, 65% of the total, continued on to 450 volts. In other words, most of the 40 subjects went all the way to give the maximum shock.

To repeat an important point, the experimenters (and others whom they questioned both before and after) did not at all expect this sort of result. They expected almost everyone to stop well before 300 volts, by 150 volts. In addition, people who have had the experiment described to them in detail, tend to be quite confident that, if they had participated in the original experiment, they would have stopped administering shocks at or before that relatively early point (150 volts), much earlier than anyone did in the actual experiment.

Now consider any one of the subjects who went all the way to 450 volts, past the label "Danger: Severe Shock" and well past the point at which the learner had stopped responding in any way. It is hard not to think there is something terribly wrong with the subject. It is extremely tempting to attribute the subject's performance to a character defect in the subject rather than to details of the situation.

But can we really attribute a 2 to 1 majority response to a character defect? And what about the fact that all subjects were willing to go at least to the 300 volt level? Does everyone have this character defect? Is that really the right way to explain Milgram's results?

A different kind of explanation (Ross & Nisbett, 1991, pp. 56-8) invokes relevant features of the situation. First, there is "the step-wise character of the shift from relatively unobjectionable behavior to complicity in a pointless, cruel, and dangerous ordeal," making it difficult to find a rationale to stop at one point rather than another. Second, "the difficulty in moving from the intention to discontinue to the actual termination of their participation," given the experimenter's refusal to accept a simple announcement that the subject is quitting -- "The experiment requires that you continue." Third, as the experiment went on, "the events that unfolded did not `make sense' or `add up' ... The subjects' task was that of administering severe electric shocks to a learner who was no longer attempting to learn anything ... [T]here was simply no way for [subjects] to arrive at a stable `definition of the situation'."

The fundamental attribution error in this case consists in "how readily the observer makes erroneous inferences about the actor's destructive obedience (or foolish conformity) by taking the behavior at face value and presuming that extreme personal dispositions are at fault."

5.2 Good Samaritans

The second experiment that I will mention derives from the parable of the Good Samaritan, which goes like this.

"And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied. "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down the road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. [Levites were important participants in temple ceremonies.] But a Samaritan [a religious outcast], as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion and went to him and bound his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two dennarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, "Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back." Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to him who fell among the robbers? He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise." (Luke 10:29-37, Revised Standard Version)

Darley and Batson (1973) observe that people can envision various differences between the priest and Levite on the one hand and the Samaritan on the other hand. The priest and Levite might have well have had their minds on religious matters, whereas the Samaritan probably did not. The priest and Levite were probably hurrying along to various appointments, whereas the Samaritan was probably less in a hurry. The parable also suggests that there is a difference in type of religiosity or morality. The priest and Levite in Jesus's act virtuously in order to please God, where the Samaritan responds more directly to the needs of another person.

The standard interpretation of the parable focuses on the third of these variables, the type of religious or moral character of the agent.
25996  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: November 12, 2007, 07:33:29 PM
Iraq, Turkey: Border Problems Resolved
November 12, 2007 21 50  GMT


A political advisor to Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council head Abdul Aziz al-Hakim said border problems between Iraq and Turkey had been resolved, Fars News Agency reported Nov. 12. He said steps taken by the Iraqi central government to soothe Turkey's concerns had helped to reduce "Kurdish Workers' Party-related problems." He also said Kurd officials in northern Iraq helped the central government in taking these steps.

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25997  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: November 12, 2007, 07:32:18 PM

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called domestic critics of his nuclear policies "traitors" who spied for Iran's enemies, The Associated Press reported Nov. 12. Ahmadinejad also warned that he would expose the critics. "If internal elements do not stop pressures concerning the nuclear issue, they will be exposed to the Iranian nation," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to students at Tehran's Science and Industry University. "We have made promises to the people and believe anyone giving up over the nuclear issue is a traitor."

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25998  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: November 12, 2007, 07:26:37 PM
Mexico Security Memo: Nov. 12, 2007
November 12, 2007 20 30  GMT



Influence on the Border

The U.S.-Mexico border area stood out this past week as a venue for violence by drug cartels and other criminal groups. Several incidents occurred in the Baja California state border town of Mexicali, where the targeted killing of a state police officer was followed two days later by a firefight that left one person dead and two wounded. Farther east, at least one candidate for political office in Tamaulipas state was abducted in Reynosa, a town just across the border from McAllen, Texas.

The notion that drug traffickers are starting to influence local politics in the border area is of particular concern to the United States, where, despite the implementation of various security initiatives, Mexico's drug cartels and criminal groups have continued to expand their networks. The success of the new Merida Initiative -- the joint U.S.-Mexico counternarcotics and border security program -- relies on political cooperation on both sides of the border. Any success is questionable, however, when politicians face criminal opponents as well as political opponents.

Cocaine Haul

Twenty-six tons of cocaine seized this past week in Manzanillo, Colima state, belonged to the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico's attorney general said. Together with the more than three tons seized from a drug plane that crashed in the Yucatan in September, the haul makes it clear that Sinaloa has well-established connections with South American cocaine traffickers. This conclusion conflicts with statements made by Mexican government officials that the Gulf cartel is the only Mexican drug trafficking organization capable of maintaining relationships with South American cartels. Following the most recent seizure, Sinaloa is unlikely to break its relationship with its Colombian counterparts, though it will certainly review its security plan for receiving drug shipments in certain ports.

Cartel-Related IEDs?

Also this past week, a small improvised explosive device (IED) detonated in the trunk of a car parked in a hospital parking lot in Toluca, Mexico state. No one was injured in the explosion, though several nearby cars were damaged. The car belonged to a doctor who worked at the hospital. Planting explosives in cars is rare in Mexico, and it is unclear who was responsible for the bombing. Speculation that drug traffickers were behind the incident was prompted by unconfirmed reports that some inmates from a federal prison had recently been moved to the hospital for treatment.

As we have noted previously, though, Mexico's drug cartels are not known for using IEDs. Despite how easy it is to acquire explosives in the country, drug cartels have demonstrated a preference for killing with guns and grenades. One group known for using small IEDs in locations that will not cause casualties is the guerrilla group Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR). However, an unclaimed attack on a doctor's car does not match the operational history of EPR, which most recently has focused on bombing oil pipelines. The incident this past week in Toluca was most likely linked to some other crime, such as extortion, and not to drug trafficking or guerrilla activity.





Violent Kidnappings

Several incidents involving businessmen this past week highlight the kidnapping risk in Mexico and how violent those kidnappings can be. A Spanish businessman was released Nov. 4 after being held for nearly two weeks by a kidnapping gang in Mexico City. The kidnappers reportedly cut off two of his fingers and sent them to his family to convince them to pay the ransom. During the actual abduction, gunmen stopped the victim's car and killed his bodyguard.

In what appears to have been a similar incident on Nov. 9, an apparent kidnapping attempt against a businessman in Monterrey ended with his bodyguard being killed and him being wounded. According to reports, gunmen in several vehicles followed the two men as they left a hotel. As the driver attempted to lose them, he drove the wrong way down a one-way street, eventually running into a bus. The gunmen then cornered them and opened fire on their vehicle. These incidents highlight the false sense of security that traditional protective services provide in Mexico and underscore the need for comprehensive security programs that include protective intelligence.

Nov. 5
An official from the National Action Party confirmed that a municipal presidential candidate's campaign manager was abducted by a group of armed men in Tamaulipas state.

A Baja California state police officer was shot to death outside his home in Mexicali by two men who approached him as he was entering his house.

The bodies of two unidentified men who had been shot to death were found in shallow graves in Durango state. Police believe they are two men who were abducted Sept. 27.

Nov. 6
Authorities in Sinaloa state reported two unrelated drug-related killings that occurred in the state capital Culiacan. In one case, an unidentified victim was shot at least 20 times; in the other, gunmen armed with assault rifles shot and killed a man outside his home.

Nov. 7
One person died and two were wounded in a firefight in Mexicali, Baja California state, just across the border from Calexico, California.

A man in Mexico City died when he was shot at point blank range in his vehicle after a group of gunmen blocked his car in the street.

Nov. 8
Federal police in Mexico City arrested Pedro Alfonso Alatorre Damy (aka, Pedro Barraza Urtusuástegui and El Piri), a suspected accountant for the Sinaloa cartel. The arrest reportedly came after an account containing $2.7 million in a Chicago bank was frozen, based on information exchanged between authorities in Mexico and the United States.

A high-ranking official of the Workers Confederation of Mexico, a labor union, was unhurt when gunmen opened fire on his vehicle in Mexico state.

Nov. 9
Two sailors in the Mexican navy were wounded in an ambush outside a supermarket in Tampico, the capital of Tamalipas state. According to reports, gunmen fired shots near a night club in Tampico, then intercepted the military convoy carrying troops to respond to the violence.

Nov. 10
A federal police commander in Coahuila state was wounded when he was shot at least five times by gunmen in two vehicles in the state capital Saltillo.

Nov. 11
An official of the civil aviation authority in Quintana Roo state was found shot to death in Cancun. He had reportedly been kidnapped the night before at a soccer game.

A Mexico state police commander was shot to death outside his home. He was unarmed at the time of the attack.

The body of an unidentified man with three gunshot wounds was found in Acapulco, Guerrero state.


stratfor
25999  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: November 12, 2007, 07:24:07 PM
Iraq, Iran: Prelude to a Pipeline
November 12, 2007 16 53  GMT



A spokesman for Iraq's South Oil Co. said Nov. 12 that the firm is working on a pipeline between the southern Iraqi region of Basra and the Iranian port city of Abadan. Such a pipeline would be very easy to build, logistically and financially, and would be a significant financial asset to both sides. But it requires a U.S.-Iranian understanding on Iraq.

A pipeline linking Basra to Abadan can be constructed quickly and inexpensively, given that 6.2 miles of flat terrain separates the two. It would help transport Iraqi crude from the Al Faw Peninsula through the Shatt al-Arab waterway to the refinery in Abadan, located in Iran's southwestern oil-rich Khuzestan region.





More important, though, the pipeline could increase Iraqi crude exports by roughly 400,000 barrels per day (the capacity of the Abadan refinery) -- which, at current prices, translates into a daily energy revenue increase of approximately $35 million. Iran's Abadan refinery could make use of cheaper Iraqi crude, allowing Tehran to export a similar amount of its own crude to the wider world. In addition to bringing together two major petroleum complexes on the northern side of the Persian Gulf, it also could help bolster pan-Shiite relations between Iran and Iraq.

Though the costs are few and the benefits many, this pipeline has a major prerequisite: a political settlement between the United States and Iran on Iraq. In recent days, there have been a few positive signs underscoring some progress in the U.S.-Iranian dealings, but a final deal remains elusive.

Another factor in a U.S.-Iranian deal -- one that would affect the pipeline's viability -- is finding a way to handle the oil mafia, anti-Iranian political forces and rival Shiite militias in the Basra region. The Iranians and their Iraqi Shiite allies would have to deal with these rogue elements to reap the benefits of such a pipeline. Since the intra-Iraqi Shiite situation is linked to a U.S.-Iranian deal, it would have to be sorted out more or less in the same time frame.

This pipeline is representative of the energy ties Iran and Iraq can enjoy if a political deal can be clinched.

stratfor
26000  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans on: November 12, 2007, 07:16:08 PM
A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America ", for an amount of "up to and including my life."

That is honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it. 

Author unknown.
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